Avian blood parasites in an endangered columbid: Leucocytozoon marchouxi in the Mauritian Pink Pigeon Columba mayeri

N Bunbury, E Barton, CG Jones, AG Greenwood, KM Tyler, DJ Bell

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Abstract

There is increasing evidence that pathogens can play a significant role in species decline. This study of a complete free-living species reveals a cost of blood parasitism to an endangered host, the Pink Pigeon Columba mayeri, endemic to Mauritius. We investigated the prevalence and effect of infection of the blood parasite, Leucocytozoon marchouxi, in the free-living Pink Pigeon population. Overall, L. marchouxi infection prevalence detected was 18·3%. Juveniles were more likely to be infected than older birds and there was geographical variation in infection prevalence. Survival of birds infected with L. marchouxi was lower than that of uninfected birds to 90 days post-sampling. This study suggests that while common haematozoa are well tolerated in healthy adults, these parasites may have greater pathogenic potential in susceptible juveniles. The study is unusual given its completeness of species sampling (96%) within a short time-period, the accurate host age data, and its focus on blood parasites in a threatened bird species. Species for which long-term life-history data are available for every individual serve as valuable models for dissecting the contribution of particular pathogens to species decline.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)797-804
Number of pages8
JournalParasitology
Volume134
Issue number6
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - 4 Jan 2007

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