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Latitudinal gradients of hemoparasite infection prevalence and genetic diversity in reptiles

Pedro Pablo Álvarez1 | Daniel Gonzalez-Acuña2 | Lucila Moreno3 | Claudio Verdugo1

  1.  Laboratorio de Ecología y Evolución de Enfermedades Infecciosas, Instituto de Patología Animal, Facultad de Ciencias Veterinarias, Universidad Austral de Chile; 2. Laboratorio de Zoología y Vida Silvestre, Departamento de Ciencias Pecuarias, Facultad de Ciencias Veterinarias, Universidad de Concepción, Chillán, Chile; 3.  Laboratorio de Ecología Parasitaria, Departamento de Zoología, Facultad de Ciencias Naturales y Oceanográficas, Universidad de Concepción, Concepción, Chile.

Ponente: Pedro Pablo Álvarez,

Latitudinal diversity gradients are recognized as one of the most important biogeographic patterns in ecology, which allow the explanation of taxonomic, phylogenetic and functional aspects of biodiversity. The objective of this study was to understand the changes in prevalence and genetic diversity of hemoparasites infecting reptiles across a wide geographic range in Chile. Using light microscopy and/or PCR (amplifying the 18S rRNA), we analyzed 1050 individual samples (blood or tail) of 39 species of reptiles captured in 39 locations between latitudes 18° to 42°S in 2010-2019. A total prevalence of 23.7% was obtained, being 17% for Lankesterella spp. and 7.8% for Hepatozoon spp. Furthermore, Lankesterella spp. presents a greater diversity of haplotypes (0.94 ± 0.02) than Hepatozoon (0.74 ± 0.09). Mixed generalized linear models were built randomizing the effect of host species as a function of latitude. Interestingly, the probability of Hepatozoon infection decreases as a function of latitude, while Lankesterella presents an increased probability of infection in reptiles at higher latitudes. In addition, northern, central and southern areas of Chile, evaluated through haplotype networks, show genetically distinct parasite populations. Our results show the importance of latitudinal effects on the prevalence and genetic diversity of blood parasites in reptile host populations, with clearly established phylogeographic patterns for the two parasites under study.

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