The vectors of avian malaria (Haemosporida) are an understudied component of wildlife disease ecology. Most studies of avian malaria have focused on the intermediate bird hosts. This bias leaves a significant gap in our knowledge and understanding of the insect hosts. This study investigates the diversity of malaria parasites carried by mosquitoes (Diptera, Culicidae) in the state of Mississippi. With the use of molecular techniques, haemosporidian infection rates were determined and parasites were identified. A total of 27,157 female mosquitoes representing 15 species were captured. Five of those species tested positive for malaria parasites with an overall infection rate of 4 per 1,000 mosquitoes infected. Mosquitoes were shown to harbor Plasmodium and Haemoproteus (Parahaemoproteus) parasites. A unique lineage of parasites was discovered in Anopheles mosquitoes, potentially representing a new genus of haemosporidian parasites, reinforcing the need to continue investigating this diverse group of parasites.
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Vol. 103 • No. 6