One hundred twenty-three of 300 blood samples (41%) taken from Rio Grande wild turkeys (Meleagris gallopavo intermedia) from three locations in southern Texas (Welder Wildlife Refuge, Chaparrosa Ranch, and Campo Alegre Ranch) and subinoculated into domestic broad-breasted white turkey poults were positive for a Plasmodium (Novyella) sp. Analysis of blood films from 350 turkeys revealed Haemoproteus meleagridis in 76% of the birds. A significantly greater mean parasite intensity was observed in birds from Welder Wildlife Refuge. Birds from the Campo Alegre Ranch exhibited a significantly higher prevalence of H. meleagridis than birds from Chaparrosa. The Plasmodium sp. was infective for canaries (Serinus canaria), bobwhites (Colinus virginianus), and ring-necked pheasants (Phasianus colchicus), but would not produce infection in white leghorn chickens (Gallus gallus) or Coturnix quail (Coturnix coturnix). Attempts to infect Culex tarsalis and C. pipiens pipiens were unsuccessful. Asexual erythrocytic synchrony was not observed when blood-induced infections were monitored in two domestic turkey poults every 4 hr for 72 hr. Exoerythrocytic stages were not found upon examination of impression smears and tissue samples taken from brain, liver, spleen, kidney, lung, and bone marrow. The Plasmodium sp. is most similar morphologically to three species in the subgenus Novyella, P. hexamerium, P. vaughani, and P. kempi. The most striking similarities are to P. hexamerium, and involve mean merozoite number, erythrocytic schizont location, and vertebrate host susceptibility. It differs from P. vaughani in being able to infect turkeys and in type of parasitized erythrocytes. Differences to P. kempi include mean merozoite number, and ability to infect pheasants, and its inability to develop in C. pipiens and C. tarsalis.
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Vol. 24 • No. 1