Structure and organization of an avian haemosporidian assemblage in a Neotropical savanna in Brazil

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle


Studies on avian haemosporidia are on the rise, but we still lack a basic understanding of how ecological and evolutionary factors mold the distributions of haemosporidia among species in the same bird community. We studied the structure and organization of a local avian haemosporidian assemblage (genera Plasmodium and Haemoproteus) in the Cerrado biome of Central Brazil for 5 years. We obtained 790 blood samples from 54 bird species of which 166 (21%) were infected with haemosporidians based on molecular diagnostics. Partial sequences of the parasite cytochrome b gene revealed 18 differentiated avian haemosporidian lineages. We also analysed the relationship of life-history traits (i.e., nesting height, migration status, nest type, sociality, body mass, and embryo development period) of the 14 most abundant bird species with
the prevalence of avian haemosporidia. It was found that host species that bred socially presented a higher prevalence of Haemoproteus (Parahaemoproteus) than bird species that bred in pairs. Thus, aspects of host behaviour could be responsible for differential exposure to vectors. The assemblage of avian haemosporidia studied here also confirms a pattern that is emerging in recent studies using molecular markers to identify avian haemosporidians, namely that many lineages are host generalists.


  • Alan Fecchio
  • Marcos Robalinho Lima
  • Maria Svensson-Coelho
  • Miguel Ângelo Marini
  • Robert E Ricklefs
External organisations
  • University of Brasilia
  • University of Missouri-St. Louis
Research areas and keywords

Subject classification (UKÄ) – MANDATORY

  • Zoology
  • Ecology
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)181-192
Number of pages12
Issue number02
Publication statusPublished - 2013
Publication categoryResearch
Externally publishedYes