In order to determine the evolutionary relationships among Eimeria species that parasitize birds of the Galliformes, the 18s rDNA gene and a portion of the cytochrome oxidase subunit 1 (cox-1) were amplified from Eimeria species isolated from turkeys, chukars, and pheasants. The phylogenetic analysis of these sequences suggests that species infecting chickens are polyphyletic and, therefore, do not all share a direct common ancestor. Both the 18s rDNA and the cox-1 sequences indicate that Eimeria tenella and Eimeria necatrix are more closely related to Eimeria of turkeys and pheasants than to other species that infect the chicken. It is, therefore, likely that the chicken Eimeria spp. represent 2 separate ancestral colonizations of the gut, one of which comprises E. tenella and E. necatrix that infect the ceca, while the other includes Eimeria acervulina, Eimeria brunetti, Eimeria maxima, and Eimeria mitis, which infect the upper regions of the intestine.
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Vol. 96 • No. 5