Diversity and phylogenetic relationships of haemosporidian and hemogregarine parasites in Australian lizards

Katja E. Boysen, Susan L. Perkins, Sumitha Hunjan, Paul Oliver, Michael G. Gardner, Shandiya Balasubramaniam, Jane Melville

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Apicomplexa is a large monophyletic phylum of unicellular, parasitic organisms. Reptiles are hosts to both haemosporidian (Haemosporida) and hemogregarine (Eucoccidiorida) apicomplexan blood parasites. Within reptiles our understanding of their diversity remains limited, with a paucity of information from Australia, despite a high diversity of squamates (snakes and lizards). We provide a preliminary assessment of haemosporidian and hemogregarine diversity occurring in lizards across northern tropical Australia, building on existing data with results from a microscopy and genetic assessment. We screened total of 233 blood slides using microscopy and detected hemogregarines in 25 geckos, 2 skinks and 1 agamid, while haemosporidians were detected in 13 geckos. DNA sequencing of 28 samples of the hemogregarine 18S rRNA (∼900 bp) nuclear gene revealed five lineages of Australian lizard hemogregarines within heteroxenous adeleids. We sequenced 10 samples of Haemosporida mtDNA (cytb & coI: ∼1313 bp) and phylogenetic analysis with 30 previously published sequences revealed that the Australian Haemosporida grouped within the Haemoproteidae but were not supported as a monophyletic clade. Our results demonstrate that there is significant undocumented evolutionary diversity in Australian lizard haemosporidian and hemogregarine parasites, with preliminary evidence of significantly higher infection rates in geckos.

Original languageEnglish
Article number107358
Number of pages7
JournalMolecular Phylogenetics and Evolution
Publication statusPublished - Feb 2022


  • Apicomplexa
  • Australian lizards
  • Geckos
  • Haemocystidium
  • Haemogregarines
  • Haemosporida
  • Phylogenetic relationships
  • Reptile malaria

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