Abstract

Assessing parasite specificity to vector is crucial to understanding the emergence of vector-borne diseases and the evolution of parasite diversity. Avian malaria parasites have a cosmopolitan distribution and broad avian host range, which together predict they are vector generalists, but little is known about parasite–vector associations in the wild. We tested this prediction by asking if 5 different mosquito species, known to feed on birds and abundant in the northeastern United States, were naturally infected in the field with identical avian Plasmodium spp. lineages. Mosquitoes were not pooled but rather analyzed individually, and, possibly as a result, lineage diversity was higher than reported in previous avian malaria vector studies. Plasmodium spp. lineages were rare in Aedes canadensis and absent in Aedes aurifer and Culiseta melanura. We sequenced a standard Plasmodium cytochrome b marker from Culex pipiens pipiens, Culex restuans, and Ae. canadensis. Most Plasmodium clades were shared by Cx. pipiens and Cx. restuans. In addition, 4 individual lineages were shared by both mosquito species, including the most common lineage. One Plasmodium clade, however, was only found in Cx. restuans. We therefore found limited support for our prediction that avian Plasmodium spp. vector breadth accompanies host breadth. The association of both Culex species with most Plasmodium clades, and the presence of a single parasite lineage in 3 mosquito species representing 2 genera, suggests that avian Plasmodium species are not tightly coevolved with vector species.

You do not currently have access to this content.