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Journal Article

Contrasting the seasonal and elevational prevalence of generalist avian haemosporidia in co-occurring host species

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Lynton-Jenkins, J., Bründl, A. C., Cauchoix, M., Lejeune, L. A., Sallé, L., Thiney, A., et al. (2020). Contrasting the seasonal and elevational prevalence of generalist avian haemosporidia in co-occurring host species. Ecology and Evolution, 10(12), 6097-6111. doi:10.1002/ece3.6355.

Cite as: https://hdl.handle.net/21.11116/0000-0006-699D-4
Understanding the ecology and evolution of parasites is contingent on identifying the selection pressures they face across their infection landscape. Such a task is made challenging by the fact that these pressures will likely vary across time and space, as a result of seasonal and geographical differences in host susceptibility or transmission opportunities. Avian haemosporidian blood parasites are capable of infecting multiple co‐occurring hosts within their ranges, yet whether their distribution across time and space varies similarly in their different host species remains unclear. Here, we applied a new PCR method to detect avian haemosporidia (genera Haemoproteus, Leucocytozoon, and Plasmodium) and to determine parasite prevalence in two closely related and co‐occurring host species, blue tits (Cyanistes caeruleus, N = 529) and great tits (Parus major, N = 443). Our samples were collected between autumn and spring, along an elevational gradient in the French Pyrenees and over a three‐year period. Most parasites were found to infect both host species, and while these generalist parasites displayed similar elevational patterns of prevalence in the two host species, this was not always the case for seasonal prevalence patterns. For example, Leucocytozoon group A parasites showed inverse seasonal prevalence when comparing between the two host species, being highest in winter and spring in blue tits but higher in autumn in great tits. While Plasmodium relictum prevalence was overall lower in spring relative to winter or autumn in both species, spring prevalence was also lower in blue tits than in great tits. Together, these results reveal how generalist parasites can exhibit host‐specific epidemiology, which is likely to complicate predictions of host–parasite co‐evolution.