Abstract

The prevalence of hemosporidian parasites varies among different host species, geographic locations, habitats, and host life histories, and yet we do not have a firm understanding of the ultimate causes of the variation. Seabirds are not typically found infected with hemosporidian parasites; however, frigatebird species have been repeatedly documented with Hemoproteus spp. infections. Hemoproteus iwa in Galapagos great frigatebirds (Fregata minor) is vectored by a hippoboscid fly, Olfersia spinifera, an obligate ectoparasite of the bird host. Five populations of Galapagos great frigatebirds, and flies collected from the birds, were sampled and tested for H. iwa. Prevalence did not differ across 4 yr or between 5 islands, but males were found to have a significantly higher prevalence of infection than did females. Additionally, juveniles were more likely to be infected than were adults and chicks. Because the invertebrate vector is an obligate parasite, we were able to estimate prevalence in the vector as well as in the particular host upon which it fed, a task that is impossible, or nearly impossible, in hemosporidian parasites vectored by midges or mosquitoes. We tested the correlation between the infection status of the bird host and the infection status of the fly collected from the bird. More often than not the 2 were correlated, but some mismatches were found. Using the occurrence of infected flies on uninfected birds (12/99) as a proxy for transmission potential, we can estimate the transmission rate to be between 5 and 20% (95% confidence intervals) among individual vertebrate hosts.

You do not currently have access to this content.