We identify and describe the distribution of 12 genetically distinct malaria parasite lineages over islands and hosts in four common passerine birds in the Lesser Antilles. Combined parasite prevalence demonstrates strong host effects, little or no island effect, and a significant host-times-island interaction, indicating independent outcomes of host-parasite infections among island populations of the same host species. Host- and/or island-specific parasite lineages do not explain these host-parasite associations; rather, individual lineages themselves demonstrate the same type of independent interactions. Unlike overall prevalence, individual parasite lineages show considerable geographic structure (i.e., island effects) as well as species effects indicating that parasite lineages are constrained in their ability to move between hosts and locations. Together, our results suggest an upper limit to the number of host individuals that malaria parasites, as a community, can infect. Within this limit, however, the relative frequency of the different lineages varies reflecting fine scale interactions between host and parasite populations. Patterns of host-parasite associations within this system suggest both historical co-evolution and ecologically dynamic and independent host-parasite interactions.
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Vol. 57 • No. 3