Tuesday, August 19, 2008

Parasite found in Galápagos penguins

A parasite has been found in Galápagos penguins, raising fears among researchers that it could lead to avian malaria, a disease that contributed significantly to the 50 percent extinction rate of endemic birds in Hawaii.

The discovery resulted from a long-term study to monitor diseases in Galápagos birds, conducted by researchers from the University of Missouri, St. Louis, the St. Louis Zoo, Galápagos National Park and the Charles Darwin Foundation.

Dr. Parker, a professor of zoological studies at the University of Missouri, St. Louis, said the parasite was in the genus Plasmodium, which includes several malaria-causing species. The recently discovered parasite appears to be a new species and is so far unnamed.

The parasite was probably introduced by human activity, she said. Tourism has increased to 140,000 visitors in 2006 from 40,000 in 1990.

Source: New York Times

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