Resource predictability and specialization in avian malaria parasites

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle


We tested the hypothesis that avian haemosporidian (malaria) parasites specialize on hosts that can be characterized as predictable resources at a site in Amazonian Ecuador. We incorporated host phylogenetic relationship and relative abundance in assessing parasite specialization, and we examined associations between parasite specialization and three host characteristics – abundance, mass and longevity – using quantile regression, phylogenetic logistic regression and t-tests. Hosts of specialist malaria parasite lineages were on average more abundant than hosts of generalist parasite lineages, but the relationship between host abundance and parasite specialization was not consistent across analyses. We also found support for a positive association between parasite specialization and host longevity, but this also was not consistent across analyses. Nonetheless, our findings suggest that the predictability of a host resource may play a role in the evolution of specialization. However, we also discuss two alternative explanations to the resource predictability hypothesis for specialization: (i) that interspecific interactions among the parasites themselves might constrain some parasites to a specialist strategy, and (ii) that frequent encounters with multiple host species, mediated by blood-sucking insects, might promote generalization within this system.


External organisations
  • Federal University of São Paulo
  • University of Florida
  • University of Missouri-St. Louis
Research areas and keywords

Subject classification (UKÄ) – MANDATORY

  • Zoology
  • Ecology


  • avian malaria, community ecology, ecological specialization, species interactions
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)4377-4391
Number of pages15
JournalMolecular Ecology
Issue number17
Publication statusPublished - 2016
Publication categoryResearch
Externally publishedYes