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Diversity of avian haemosporidians in arid zones of northern Venezuela



Arid zones of northern Venezuela are represented by isolated areas, important from an ornithological and ecological perspective due to the occurrence of restricted-range species of birds. We analysed the prevalence and molecular diversity of haemosporidian parasites of wild birds in this region by screening 527 individuals (11 families and 20 species) for parasite mitochondrial DNA. The overall prevalence of parasites was 41%, representing 17 mitochondrial lineages: 7 of Plasmodium and 10 of Haemoproteus. Two parasite lineages occurred in both the eastern and western regions infecting a single host species, Mimus gilvus. These lineages are also present throughout northern and central Venezuela in a variety of arid and mesic habitats. Some lineages found in this study in northern Venezuela have also been observed in different localities in the Americas, including the West Indies. In spite of the widespread distributions of some of the parasite lineages found in northern Venezuela, several, including some that are relatively common (e.g. Ven05 and Ven06), have not been reported from elsewhere. Additional studies are needed to characterize the host and geographical distribution of avian malaria parasite lineages, which will provide a better understanding of the influence of landscape, vector abundance and diversity, and host identity on haemosporidian parasite diversity and prevalence.


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*Corresponding author: Universidade Federal de Minas Gerais, Av. Antônio Carlos, 6627. Instituto de Ciências Biológicas, Departamento de Parasitologia. 31270-910. Belo Horizonte, MG.Brazil. Tel: +5531 34992876. Fax: +5531 34992790. E-mail:


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