Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations

What it takes to be the perfect invading parasite

Date:
July 18, 2012
Source:
Zoological Society of London
Summary:
Scientists have just documented the characteristics of invading parasites, using malaria in New Zealand bird species.

Blood sampling New Zealand endemic hihi, Notiomystis cincta, to screen for avian malaria.
Credit: ZSL/A. Harris

Scientists from the Zoological Society of London (ZSL) are the first to document the characteristics of invading parasites, using malaria in New Zealand bird species.

The study, published July 18 in Ecology Letters, identifies the factors influencing the success of parasites unintentionally introduced to new environments.

Avian malaria is a disease caused by species of parasites, of the genus Plasmodium, which infects birds. Just like human malaria, it is spread by mosquitoes, and the parasites spend part of their lives in red blood cells of birds. Avian malaria is common in continental areas, but is often absent from isolated islands where mosquitoes are less prevalent.

More than 800 exotic and native host birds were studied in a range of areas across Northern New Zealand. They detected parasite infection by extracting DNA from blood and analyzing it to look at specific segments of genes. They then looked in more detail at the characteristics of the parasites they found to see if they had features that made them more likely to be present in bird hosts in New Zealand.

ZSL's Dr John Ewen, who is from New Zealand himself, says: "We have found a surprisingly high diversity of malaria parasites in New Zealand, including two found nowhere else in the world. However, most parasites we found are recent arrivals, probably from infected birds released by humans. They tend to be widespread and common strains, which can infect a broad range of bird hosts. These findings will help us understand the what, when and how of exotic parasite introductions globally."

The global movement of parasites beyond their native country is an increasing problem, especially in the conservation of species. Many introduced parasites flourish in new environments and some can even be invasive. Little is known about the traits which enable parasites to survive and thrive.

ZSL's Professor Tim Blackburn added: "While we know a lot about the traits of successful vertebrate species invasions, our knowledge of the parasites they may carry is largely a blank page. This is alarming given that these co-introduced parasites can have catastrophic consequences for the natives they encounter, an example illustrated by smallpox introduced to the New World by the early European colonists."

This is the first study looking at the specific features of the exotic parasites within an isolated island bird community. New Zealand has a highly threatened bird community, sensitive to many human caused changes with exotic species being a major threat. ZSL scientists and colleagues are continuing to work on developing appropriate risk assessments for New Zealand's iconic native biodiversity and in understanding why some environments are more likely to be invaded by parasites than others.


Story Source:

The above story is based on materials provided by Zoological Society of London. Note: Materials may be edited for content and length.


Journal Reference:

  1. John G. Ewen, Staffan Bensch, Tim M. Blackburn, Camille Bonneaud, Ruth Brown, Phillip Cassey, Rohan H. Clarke, Javier Pιrez-Tris. Establishment of exotic parasites: the origins and characteristics of an avian malaria community in an isolated island avifauna. Ecology Letters, 2012; DOI: 10.1111/j.1461-0248.2012.01833.x

Cite This Page:

Zoological Society of London. "What it takes to be the perfect invading parasite." ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 18 July 2012. <www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2012/07/120718074033.htm>.
Zoological Society of London. (2012, July 18). What it takes to be the perfect invading parasite. ScienceDaily. Retrieved September 23, 2014 from www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2012/07/120718074033.htm
Zoological Society of London. "What it takes to be the perfect invading parasite." ScienceDaily. www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2012/07/120718074033.htm (accessed September 23, 2014).

Share This



More Earth & Climate News

Tuesday, September 23, 2014

Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations


Featured Videos

from AP, Reuters, AFP, and other news services

Hundreds of Thousands Hit NYC Streets to Protest Climate Change

Hundreds of Thousands Hit NYC Streets to Protest Climate Change

AFP (Sep. 22, 2014) — Celebrities, political leaders and the masses rallied in New York and across the globe demanding urgent action on climate change, with organizers saying 600,000 people hit the streets. Duration: 01:19 Video provided by AFP
Powered by NewsLook.com
French FM Urges 'powerful' Response to Global Warming

French FM Urges 'powerful' Response to Global Warming

AFP (Sep. 22, 2014) — French Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius on Monday warned about the potential "catastrophe" if global warming was not dealt with in a "powerful" way. Duration: 01:08 Video provided by AFP
Powered by NewsLook.com
Ongoing Drought, Fighting Put Somalia at Risk of Famine

Ongoing Drought, Fighting Put Somalia at Risk of Famine

AFP (Sep. 22, 2014) — After a year of poor rains and heavy fighting Somalia is again at risk of famine, just three years after food shortages killed 260,000 people. Duration: 01:10 Video provided by AFP
Powered by NewsLook.com
Rockefeller Oil Heirs Switching To Clean Energy

Rockefeller Oil Heirs Switching To Clean Energy

Newsy (Sep. 22, 2014) — The Rockefellers — heirs to an oil fortune that made the family name a symbol of American wealth — are switching from fossil fuels to clean energy. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com

Search ScienceDaily

Number of stories in archives: 140,361

Find with keyword(s):
 
Enter a keyword or phrase to search ScienceDaily for related topics and research stories.

Save/Print:
Share:  

Breaking News:

Strange & Offbeat Stories

 

Plants & Animals

Earth & Climate

Fossils & Ruins

In Other News

... from NewsDaily.com

Science News

Health News

Environment News

Technology News



Save/Print:
Share:  

Free Subscriptions


Get the latest science news with ScienceDaily's free email newsletters, updated daily and weekly. Or view hourly updated newsfeeds in your RSS reader:

Get Social & Mobile


Keep up to date with the latest news from ScienceDaily via social networks and mobile apps:

Have Feedback?


Tell us what you think of ScienceDaily -- we welcome both positive and negative comments. Have any problems using the site? Questions?
Mobile iPhone Android Web
Follow Facebook Twitter Google+
Subscribe RSS Feeds Email Newsletters
Latest Headlines Health & Medicine Mind & Brain Space & Time Matter & Energy Computers & Math Plants & Animals Earth & Climate Fossils & Ruins