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New strains of avian malaria found in southwest Michigan songbirds

Northern cardinals were one of the birds tested for malaria-causing blood parasites.
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Northern cardinals were one of the birds tested for malaria-causing blood parasites.

 Stateside's conversation with Maarten Vonhof, a professor at Western Michigan University’s Institute of Environment and Sustainability

Malaria is incredibly common across the world in mammals, birds, and reptiles. So it's not surprising that birds in Michigan, just like birds elsewhere, suffer from a variety of malaria-causing parasites. 

What is surprising is just how many blood parasites you find in birds with malaria. 

A new study published in the journal Parasitology Research discovered a far greater range of blood parasites than expected in birds tested in southwest Michigan. 

Maarten Vonhofis co-author of the study and professor at Western Michigan University’s Institute of Environment and Sustainability. He spoke with Stateside about what this study means for birds in Michigan. 

Vonhof said avian malaria has been studied in North America and Europe for decades.

He expected their study to find a lot of those previously described parasite lineages, but was surprised when they found the majority of the parasite lineages observed in the birds had never been previously described. 

The study found a total of 71 different lineages of parasites in Southwest Michigan songbirds, of which 42 were new discoveries. 

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