Species of Haemoproteus (Haemosporida: Haemoproteidae), avian haemosporidians, have traditionally been described based on morphology of their gametocytes and on limited experimental information on their vertebrate host specificity. We investigated to what extent the morphological species are represented by monophyletic groups based on DNA sequence data using 2 different fragment lengths of the cytochrome b (cyt. b) gene. Phylogenetic reconstructions of obtained cyt. b lineages from 6 morphospecies of Haemoproteus showed that all lineages formed monophyletic clusters matching the morphospecies. Comparing our data with a recently published study showed that this is not always the case; the morphospecies H. belopolskyi consists of 2 distinct clusters of lineages that apparently have converged in morphology. However, the overall broad congruence between the molecular and morphological clustering of lineages will facilitate the integration of the knowledge obtained by traditional and molecular parasitology. Mean between morphospecies variation was 10-fold higher than the within species variation (5.5% vs. 0.54%), suggesting that Haemoproteus lineages with a genetic differentiation >5% are expected to be morphologically differentiated in most cases. When investigate the utility of 2 different fragment sizes of the cyt. b gene, the partial, 479-bp, cyt. b protocol picked up all mitochondrial (mt)DNA lineages that are found when using the full cyt. b gene, 1073 bp, suggesting that this protocol is sufficient for identification of most mtDNA lineages. All of the mtDNA lineages were associated with unique alleles when amplification was possible at a nuclear locus, strengthening the hypothesis that the designation of lineages based on mtDNA is largely genome-wide representative. We, therefore, propose the use of a cyt. b fragment of this length as a standard gene fragment for a DNA bar-coding system for avian Haemoproteus species.
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