Molecular analyses on host-seeking black flies (Diptera: Simuliidae) reveal a diverse assemblage of Leucocytozoon (Apicomplexa: Haemospororida) parasites in an alpine ecosystem
Murdock, Courtney C
Adler, Peter H
Perkins, Susan L
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Abstract Background Molecular studies have suggested that the true diversity of Leucocytozoon (Apicomplexa: Haemospororida) species well exceeds the approximately 35 currently described taxa. Further, the degree of host-specificity may vary substantially among lineages. Parasite distribution can be influenced by the ability of the parasite to infect a host, vector preferences for certain avian hosts, or other factors such as microhabitat requirements that increase the probability that vertebrate hosts and vectors are in frequent contact with each other. Whereas most studies of haemosporidians have focused on passerine hosts, sampling vectors in the same habitats may allow the detection of other lineages affecting other hosts. Methods We sampled abundant, ornithophilic black flies (Simuliidae) across a variety of sites and habitats in the Colorado Rocky Mountains throughout the summer of 2007. Black flies were screened with PCR using Leucocytozoon-specific primers that amplify a portion of the cytochrome b gene, and the sequences were compared to the haplotypes in the MalAvi database. Infections of Leucocytozoon from birds sampled in the same area were also included. Results We recovered 33 unique haplotypes from the black flies in this study area, which represented a large phylogenetic diversity of Leucocytozoon parasites. However, there were no clear patterns of avian host species or geography for the distribution of Leucocytozoon haplotypes in the phylogeny. Conclusions Sampling host-seeking vectors is a useful way to obtain a wide variety of avian haemosporidian haplotypes from a given area and may prove useful for understanding the global patterns of host, parasite, and vector associations of these ubiquitous and diverse parasites.