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

Dadum, Daria; Robinson, Robert; Clements, Anabel; Peach, Will; Bennett, Malcolm; Rowcliffe, J Marcus; Cunningham, Andrew


Daria Dadum

Robert Robinson

Anabel Clements

Will Peach

Malcolm Bennett

J Marcus Rowcliffe

Andrew Cunningham


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 ities, 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.

Journal Article Type Article
Publication Date Jul 17, 2019
Electronic ISSN 2054-5703
Publisher Royal Society, The
Peer Reviewed Peer Reviewed
Volume 6
Issue 7
Pages 182197
Institution Citation Dadum, D., Robinson, R., Clements, A., Peach, W., Bennett, M., Rowcliffe, J. M., & Cunningham, A. (2019). Avian malaria-mediated population decline of a widespread iconic bird species. Royal Society Open Science, 6(7), 182197
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