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New host-parasite relationships by host-switching

Publication Type:Book Chapter
Year of Publication:2017
Authors:Santiago-Alarcon, D, Merkel, J
Editor:Parker, PG
Book Title:Disease ecology – Galapagos birds and their parasites
Pagination:157 - 177
Publisher:Springer International Publishing AG
City:Gewerbestrasse 11, 6330 Cham, Switzerland
ISBN Number:978-3-319-65908-4 (print), 978-3-319-65909-1 (e-book)
Keywords:Diptera, Galapagos endemic birds, haemosporida, hemiparasites, host-switching, Nematoda

Host-switching is a natural phenomenon that many parasite species undergo as part of their life cycle; some are highly specialized, but others can read- ily change hosts to what is available in the community. Rapid environmental changes can open opportunities for host-switches that sometimes turn into important human and wildlife diseases. Island ecosystems contain large numbers of immunologically naive endemic species. The Galápagos Islands still have all their avian endemics extant; however, the ongoing introduction of animals to the archipelago could prompt extinctions of some endemics. In our first example, we tell the story of avian haemosporidian research in the Galápagos, which started with a small number of species, including conservation efforts to safeguard the little known endemic Galápagos dove (Zenaida galapagoensis); the work has since expanded to include almost all Galapagos endemics. Our second example will focus on Galápagos pen- guins (Spheniscus mendiculus) and Flightless cormorants (Phalacrocorax harrisi) infected by microfilariae (larvae of nematode worms). These two seabird species live in small populations mainly on the rocky coasts of Fernandina and Isabela Islands; they can experience devastating losses during El Niño periods due to food shortages. Fortunately, our studies show that despite high prevalence rates of these parasites, little or no health effect has been detected to date in these three avian endemics. Further monitoring and pathogen research is necessary, however, to rule out conservation concerns related to health effects due to the arrival of additional pathogens, or outbreaks of existing pathogens brought on by environmental change.

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