Project title: Avian malaria in the Galapagos archipelago: Vector competence and ecology of introduced and native mosquitoes
Summary: Emerging infectious diseases pose a major threat to global biodiversity across a range of taxa. A high-profile example of this is avian malaria in Hawaii, where an invasive mosquito, Culex quinquefasciatus, facilitated the transmission of Plasmodium parasites to susceptible endemic birds causing population declines and extinctions. With the discovery of this same invasive mosquito species in the Galápagos archipelago in the 1980s, conservationists are concerned that avian malaria could pose a similar threat to the islands' iconic, endemic birds. Given that the Plasmodium parasite was also recently detected in Galápagos birds for the first time, there is a pressing need to understand this potential threat. My research aims to understand the roles of introduced and native mosquitoes (Culex quinquefasciatus and Aedes taeniorhynchus) in vectoring avian malaria parasites in Galápagos. I will use vector competence studies to determine the parasite transmission capabilities of each species, map the spatiotemporal distributions of the mosquitoes and identify how this impacts their host-feeding preferences as well as determining which bird species are suscptible to Plasmodium infection. These results will inform conservation strategies and biosecurity policies for vector-borne diseases in the Galápagos islands.
- Dr Rob Knell
- Prof Andrew Cunningham (Institute of Zoology)