Molecular evidence for host specificity of parasitic nematode microfilariae in some African rainforest birds

R.N.M. Sehgal, Hugh Jones, T.B. Smith

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    37 Citations (Scopus)


    Here we describe, determine the prevalence, and examine the host-specificity of some parasitic nematode microfilariae in selected bird species from West and Central Africa. We used microscopy to determine the prevalence of microfilariae in 969 host individuals representing 121 rainforest bird species from Cameroon, Cote d'Ivoire and Equatorial Guinea. Thirteen (11%) of these potential host species harboured microfilariae, and 35 individuals (3.6%) were infected. From the 35 infected individuals, we identified eight distinct morphological microfilarial forms. Sixteen of the 35 infected individuals were of one host species, the Fire-crested Alethe (Alethe diademata), at a prevalence rate of 62%. To examine host and geographical specificity, we sequenced a portion of the LSU rDNA gene from representative microfilariae drawn from different hosts and collecting locations. Identical sequences of the nematode LSU rDNA gene were found in A. diademata collected from locations in Cote d'Ivoire and Equatorial Guinea, locations separated by the Dahomey Gap and associated with different hypothesized refugial areas. In contrast, several other bird species collected at the same sites harboured different microfilaria lineages. We sequenced the mitochondrial ATP synthase genes of the host species A. diademata, and found a 5.4% sequence divergence between the birds sampled in Cote d'Ivoire, and those from Cameroon. Thus, despite this split between the two populations, they harbour microfilariae with identical lineages. These data provide evidence that the microfilariae found in A. diademata may be highly host specific. This apparent specificity may have important implications for the evolutionary and ecological interactions between parasitic nematodes and their avian hosts.
    Original languageEnglish
    Pages (from-to)3977-3988
    JournalMolecular Ecology
    Issue number13
    Publication statusPublished - 2005


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