Invasive Species Compendium

Detailed coverage of invasive species threatening livelihoods and the environment worldwide

Abstract

A highly invasive malaria parasite has expanded its range to non-migratory birds in North America.

Abstract

Parasite range expansions are a direct consequence of globalization and are an increasing threat to biodiversity. Here, we report a recent range expansion of the SGS1 strain of a highly invasive parasite, Plasmodium relictum, to two non-migratory passerines in North America. Plasmodium relictum is considered one of the world's most invasive parasites and causes the disease avian malaria: this is the first reported case of SGS1 in wild non-migratory birds on the continent. Using a long-term database where researchers report avian malaria parasite infections, we summarized our current understanding of the geographical range of SGS1 and its known hosts. We also identified the most likely geographical region of this introduction event using the MSP1 allele. We hypothesize that this introduction resulted from movements of captive birds and subsequent spillover to native bird populations, via the presence of competent vectors and ecological fitting. Further work should be conducted to determine the extent to which SGS1 has spread following its introduction in North America.