Table of Contents
ISRN Parasitology
Volume 2013, Article ID 495304, 6 pages
Research Article

Searching Before It Is Too Late: A Survey of Blood Parasites in Ctenosaura melanosterna, a Critically Endangered Reptile of Honduras

1Odum School of Ecology, The University of Georgia, Athens, GA 30602, USA
2Division of Biological Sciences, The University of Georgia, Athens, GA 30602, USA
3Applied Biodiversity Science Program, Texas A&M University, College Station, TX 77843-2258, USA
4Warnell School of Forestry and Natural Resources, The University of Georgia, Athens, GA 30602, USA
5The Southeastern Cooperative Wildlife Disease Study, Department of Population Health, College of Veterinary Medicine, The University of Georgia, Athens, GA 30602, USA

Received 2 October 2012; Accepted 19 October 2012

Academic Editors: Y. Sato and K. R. Trenholme

Copyright © 2013 Andrew K. Davis et al. This is an open access article distributed under the Creative Commons Attribution License, which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited.


For species at risk of extinction, any parasites they have would be expected to face a similar fate. In such cases, time is running out for efforts to identify and study their parasitic fauna before they are gone. We surveyed the hemoparasite fauna of 50 black-chested, spiny-tailed iguanas (Ctenosaura melanosterna), a critically-endangered species, on an island off the coast of Honduras. Blood samples from captured animals were tested for hemoparasites by thin blood smear and molecular analyses. Based on microscopy, two parasites were identified, a Plasmodium sp. in 14% of iguanas and a Hepatozoon sp. in 32%. For both parasites, parasitemia levels were <0.1%. Prevalence and parasitemias of Hepatozoon declined with increasing host size, a pattern differing from most prior studies of saurian reptiles. From a subset of iguanas with microscopy-confirmed Plasmodium infections, sequence analysis of 454 bp of the cytochrome b gene indicated that the Plasmodium species was distinct from known Plasmodium and was most closely related to P. chiricahuae (96.5% similarity) followed by P. mexicanum (95.8% similarity). Efforts to amplify the Hepatozoon parasite using PCR were not successful. Additional surveys and studies of this host-parasite system would be valuable, both to science and to the management of this endangered animal.