Interspecific interactions tested: two species of malarial parasite in a West African lizard

Oecologia. 1994 Apr;97(3):326-332. doi: 10.1007/BF00317322.


Plasmodium giganteum and P. agamae, parasites of the rainbow lizard, Agama agama, in West Africa were studied to determine the nature of any interspecific interactions between the two malaria species. The plasmodia are distributed in A. agama throughout the mesic zone of Africa; P. agamae is sometimes found as a solitary malaria species in populations of the lizard, but P. gigateum has not been found alone. In 3170 lizards from Sierra Leone the prevalence of lizard malaria at 22 sites varied considerably (8-90% of lizards were infected), but the ratio of the two species was similar among sites (52-91% P. agamae). Larger lizards were more often infected. Mixed infections occurred 2-5 times more often than expected by chance. Parasite density within individual hosts, or parasitemia, was similar for each species when alone or in mixed infection. Natural infections followed in laboratory lizards stayed at constant levels for as long as 211 days. The two species use different classes of host cells (P. giganteum in immature cells and P. agamae in mature erythrocytes) and may have different periods of peak transmission. Analysis of the data does not support a neutral relationship between P. giganteum and P. agamae, nor ongoing competition for resources or heterologous immunity. The data best support facilitation in which P. agamae alters the host in a way that allows more successful establishment of P. giganteum.

Keywords: Africa Plasmodium; Lizards; Malaria; Parasite.