Parasitic protists are important both for humans and wildlife, and as such they are readily studied, not only as disease agents but as models of host-parasite interactions as well. In avian hosts, haemosporidians are notoriously studied while other apicomplexan blood parasites remain neglected. While studying blood parasites in songbirds, we have discovered developmental stages of a parasite described as Hepatozoon, but probably belonging to the genus Lankesterella. It was found most frequently in tits (Parus s. l.), extensively studied passerines, whose parasites are used as models for host-parasite interactions. Given its frequent occurrence and potential to interfere with other blood parasites, it is surprising how neglected Lankesterella is. Its (probably heteroxenous) life cycle remains unknown, the vector undiscovered. The project should fill these gaps. Simultaneous study of other blood parasites of tits in the long-term monitored population at three model localities will allow to assess lankesterella coinfections with other blood protists (transmitted by different vectors), which could direct us to probable vectors. Potential vectors are collected using suction traps (Diptera) or trapped in nests (fleas, mites). Breeding and yearling birds are trapped, ringed, and blood samples are taken. Microscopy and specific PCR are used for diagnosis. Resulting sequences will reveal phylogeny of lankesterellids. Monoxenous coccidia will be monitored in faeces and compared with lankesterellids to elucidate their relatedness to „atoxoplasma“.

The aim of this work is to find out prevalence, life cycle, role of vectors and diversity of avian lankesterellids, neglected yet potentially important blood parasites.

The candidate should be prepared for extensive field work during the breeding season. Basic knowledge of PCR, construction of phylogenetic trees, and statistical methods used in biology are welcomed.


Five relevant publications of the research group:

Svobodová M; Dolnik OV; Čepička I; Rádrová J (2017) Biting midges as vectors of avian trypanosomes. Parasites and Vectors 10: DOI: 10.1186/s13071-017-2158-9

Svobodová M; Volf P; Votýpka J (2015) Trypanosomatids in ornithophilic bloodsucking Diptera. Medical and Veterinary Entomology 29: 444-447 

Svobodová M; Weidinger K; Peške L; Volf P; Votýpka J; Voříšek P. (2015) Trypanosomes and haemosporidia in the buzzard (Buteo buteo) and sparrowhawk (Accipiter nisus): factors affecting the prevalence of parasites. Parasitology Research 114: 551-560 

Zídková L, Szabová J, Čepička I, Svobodová M. (2012) Biodiversity of avian trypanosomes. Infection, Genetics and Evolution 12:102-12 

Votýpka J, Szabová J, Rádrová J, Zídková L, Svobodová M. (2012) Trypanosoma culicavium sp. nov., an avian trypanosome transmitted by Culex mosquitoes. International Journal of Systematic and Evolutionary Biology 62: 745-54

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