Abstract

New Guinea is one of the most biodiverse regions of the world, particularly in terms of the herpetofauna present, yet surprisingly little is known about the parasites that infect these organisms. A survey of diverse scinid and agamid lizard hosts from this country showed a diversity of malaria parasites infecting these hosts. We combined morphological and morphometric observations of the parasites (primarily gametocytes) along with DNA sequence data from the mitochondrial cytochrome b and cytochrome oxidase I genes and here describe 4 new species of Plasmodium, i.e. Plasmodium minuoviride n. sp., Plasmodium koreafense n. sp., Plasmodium megalotrypa n. sp., and Plasmodium gemini n. sp. A fifth species, Plasmodium lacertiliae Thompson and Hart 1946, is redescribed based on new observations of hosts and localities and additional molecular data. This combined morphological and molecular approach is advised for all future descriptions of new malaria parasite species, particularly in light of situations where every life-history stage is not available.

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