Abstract

During a parasite survey, we collected data on the presence and distribution of feather mites, intestinal parasites, and blood parasites of small ground finches (Geospiza fuliginosa) from 4 islands in the Galapagos. We recorded 4 species of feather mites, with the most common species, Trouessartia geospiza, present on the majority (77% [308/400]) of individuals. Birds with high loads of T. geospiza came from larger islands and had higher body masses. We identified 3 species of intestinal Isospora (Isospora fragmenta, Isospora temeraria, and Isospora exigua) in fecal samples that showed a diurnal pattern of oocyst release. Among samples collected in the afternoon, infection prevalence was 61% (11/18), while only 0.5% (1/192) contained oocysts in the morning. We screened 40 individuals from one island (Isabela) for blood parasites using molecular markers. Although no parasites of Haemoproteus, Leucocytozoon, or Plasmodium were detected, a high proportion of birds (80% [32/40]) had systemic Isospora spp. infections. A high infection prevalence (74% [20/27]), but low infection intensity, was confirmed using optical microscopy. This result could either be due to the detection of a previously unidentified systemic Isospora sp. parasite, or a result of the previously described Isospora spp. parasites causing systemic infections.

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