SUMMARY: Parasite prevalence is an important variable in many evolutionary and ecological studies. In birds, haemosporidian blood parasites have been in focus of many comparative analyses. Because low prevalence is difficult to estimate precisely and that studies finding low prevalence are more likely to remain unpublished, our knowledge of parasite prevalence is biased towards highly infected taxa. Species with naturally low levels of infection are nonetheless interesting as they may provide models for studying the evolution of pathogen resistance. In the present study we show that the prevalence of Haemoproteus parasites is markedly lower in several taxa within the widely distributed chiffchaff species-complex compared to other species within the genus Phylloscopus. Since chiffchaffs, P. collybita, commonly coexists in the same habitat as congeners frequently infected with Haemoproteus parasites, immediate ecological variables like abundance of vectors can hardly explain this difference. Some of the parasites infecting coexisting congeners are broad host generalists leaving it enigmatic why chiffchaffs are almost free of Haemoproteus infections. We propose that detailed infection experiments are needed to illuminate whether chiffchaffs possess a genetic immunity against Haemoproteus parasites or if other more subtle ecological processes, like anti-vector behaviour, play a role in its generally low level of infestation.
- Biologiska vetenskaper