Very slight sequence differences in the mitochondrial cytochrome b gene, even single nucleotide substitutions, have been proposed as indicative of different species of avian malaria parasites. However, few studies have examined within-species variation in that gene for Plasmodium or related genera. We examined sequences for the entire cytochrome b gene from Plasmodium mexicanum, a parasite of lizards, for sites where microsatellite markers revealed substantial genetic diversity. For sites where the parasite is geographically genetically differentiated, and may have been isolated for thousands of years, there was no sequence variation (1,153 nucleotides) for >160 infections studied. The low degree of variation found in the cytochrome b gene for two human malaria parasites world-wide, as well as the lack of variation for P. mexicanum, contrast with the substantial variation found in surveys of bird malaria parasites, even in restricted geographic regions.

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