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Environmental determinants of haemosporidian parasite prevalence in a declining population of Tree swallows

  • Audrey Turcotte (a1), Marc Bélisle (a1), Fanie Pelletier (a1) and Dany Garant (a1)

The prevalence of vector-borne parasites such as haemosporidian species is influenced by several environmental factors. While the negative effects of parasitism on hosts are well documented, these can also be amplified by interactions with environmental stressors, many of which are anthropogenic. Yet, we know little about the possible effects of anthropogenic perturbations on parasite prevalence. The goals of this study were to assess the prevalence and environmental determinants of haemosporidian parasites in a declining population of Tree swallows (Tachycineta bicolor) living in an agricultural landscape in southern Québec, Canada. Overall, a low prevalence and a moderate lineage diversity were identified in both adults and nestlings, confirming that transmission can occur during the breeding period. Anthropic areas, extensive cultures (hayfields and pastures) and forest cover within 500 km of nest boxes, as well as daily temperature fluctuations, were all related to infection by haemosporidian parasites. These findings suggest that anthropogenic alterations of landscape composition can modulate the prevalence of haemosporidian parasites in Tree swallows. Our results represent a baseline for future comparative studies assessing haemosporidian parasite prevalence in human-modified landscapes.

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Author for correspondence: Dany Garant, E-mail:
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