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Avian malaria-mediated population decline of a widespread iconic bird species

Dadam, D; Robinson, RA; Clements, A; Peach, W; Bennett, M; Rowcliffe, M; Cunningham, A; (2019) Avian malaria-mediated population decline of a widespread iconic bird species. Royal Society Open Science , 6 (7) , Article 182197. 10.1098/rsos.182197. Green open access

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Abstract

Parasites have the capacity to affect animal populations by modifying host survival, and it is increasingly recognised that infectious disease can negatively impact biodiversity. Populations of the house sparrow (Passer domesticus) have declined in many European towns and cities, but the causes of these declines remain unclear. We investigated associations between parasite infection and house sparrow demography across suburban London where sparrow abundance has declined by 71% since 1995. Plasmodium relictum infection was found at higher prevalences (averaging 74%) in suburban London house sparrows than previously recorded in any wild bird population in Northern Europe. Survival rates of juvenile and adult sparrows and population growth rate were negatively related to Plasmodium relictum infection intensity. Other parasites were much less prevalent and exhibited no relationship with sparrow survival and no negative relationship with population growth. Low rates of co-infection suggested sparrows were not immunocompromised. Our findings indicate that P. relictum infection may be influencing house sparrow population dynamics in suburban areas. The demographic sensitivity of the house sparrow to P. relictum infection in London might reflect a recent increase in exposure to this parasite.

Type: Article
Title: Avian malaria-mediated population decline of a widespread iconic bird species
Open access status: An open access version is available from UCL Discovery
DOI: 10.1098/rsos.182197
Publisher version: https://doi.org/10.1098/rsos.182197
Language: English
Additional information: & 2019 The Authors. Published by the Royal Society under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/4.0/, which permits unrestricted use, provided the original author and source are credited.
Keywords: Plasmodium; house sparrow; passer domesticus; decline; survival; population
UCL classification: UCL
UCL > Provost and Vice Provost Offices > School of Life and Medical Sciences
UCL > Provost and Vice Provost Offices > School of Life and Medical Sciences > Faculty of Life Sciences
UCL > Provost and Vice Provost Offices > School of Life and Medical Sciences > Faculty of Life Sciences > Div of Biosciences
UCL > Provost and Vice Provost Offices > School of Life and Medical Sciences > Faculty of Life Sciences > Div of Biosciences > Genetics, Evolution and Environment
URI: https://discovery.ucl.ac.uk/id/eprint/10076957
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