The specialist versus generalist strategies of hemoparasites in relation to their avian host, as well as environmental factors, can influence their prevalence, diversity and distribution. In this paper we investigated the influence of avian host species, as well as the environmental and geographical factors, on the strategies of Haemoproteus and Plasmodium hemoparasites. We determined prevalence and diversity by targeting their cytochrome b (Cytb) in a total of 2,590 passerine samples from 138 localities of Central and South America, and analysed biogeographic patterns and host-parasite relationships. We found a total prevalence of 23.2%. Haemoproteus presented a higher prevalence (15.3%) than Plasmodium (4.3%), as well as a higher diversity and host specificity. We determined that Plasmodium and Haemoproteus prevalences correlated positively with host diversity (Shannon index) and were significantly influenced by bird diversity, demonstrating a possible “amplification effect”. We found an effect of locality and the avian family for prevalences of Haemoproteus and Plasmodium. These results suggest that Haemoproteus is more specialist than Plasmodium and could be mostly influenced by its avian host and the Andes Mountains.
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