Date of Award
Honors College Thesis
Biological Sciences BS
This study implemented microscopic assays on field collected data to assess the prevalence of avian malaria in a non-migratory species, Cardinalis cardinalis. Following capture, blood smears were collected from birds at the University of Southern Mississippi’s Lake Thoreau Environmental Education and Research Center over an eight month period from September 2012 to March 2013. These smears were then stained using a Hema 3 stain set and microscopically assessed for the presence of Plasmodium relictum (avian malaria). Stained blood smear samples from a migrant species, Junco hyemalis, were used for comparisons of malarial infection. Additionally, corticosterone (CORT) assays were preformed on selected blood samples from cardinals from each seasonal time period using Arbor Assays CORT kits to determine both baseline CORT and level changes due to handling stress and season of capture and whether there was an impact of CORT on malarial infection. Of 63 Cardinalis cardinalis blood smear samples, none were found to have the Plasmodium parasite present. Similarly, all 19 Junco hyemalis blood smears showed no presence of the infection. On average, baseline CORT was much lower in spring than winter, but there was a more elaborate stress response in the spring. Additionally, CORT baselines and stress response levels seem to have no effect on the presence of Plasmodium parasites. This data will allow for further research into Plasmodium overwintering behaviors along with removing Cardinalis cardinalis from the list of potential overwintering reservoirs.
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Gentry, Kaylee M., "Plasmodium Prevalence in Northern Cardinals Over An Eight Month Period" (2013). Honors Theses. 139.