Continental-scale patterns of pathogen prevalence: a case study on the corncrake

Yoan Fourcade (Lead Author), Oskars Keišs, David Richardson, Jean Secondi

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14 Citations (Scopus)
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Pathogen infections can represent a substantial threat to wild populations, especially those already limited in size. To determine how much variation in the pathogens observed among fragmented populations is caused by ecological factors, one needs to examine systems where host genetic diversity is consistent among the populations, thus controlling for any potentially confounding genetic effects. Here, we report geographic variation in haemosporidian infection among European populations of corncrake. This species now occurs in fragmented populations, but there is little genetic structure and equally high levels of genetic diversity among these populations. We observed a longitudinal gradient of prevalence from western to Eastern Europe negatively correlated with national agricultural yield, but positively correlated with corncrake census population sizes when only the most widespread lineage is considered. This likely reveals a possible impact of local agriculture intensity, which reduced host population densities in Western Europe and, potentially, insect vector abundance, thus reducing the transmission of pathogens. We conclude that in the corncrake system, where metapopulation dynamics resulted in variations in local census population sizes, but not in the genetic impoverishment of these populations, anthropogenic activity has led to a reduction in host populations and pathogen prevalence.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1043–1055
JournalEvolutionary Applications
Issue number9
Early online date3 Sep 2014
Publication statusPublished - Nov 2014


  • parasite transmission
  • approximate Bayesian computation
  • haemosporidian parasites
  • effective population size
  • avian malaria
  • agriculture intensity

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