Evolution of pathogens and parasites on the Galápagos Islands

Patricia G. Parker, Noah K. Whiteman

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingChapter


The history of life on Galápagos has been viewed from the perspective of the islands themselves as ever-changing physical entities (e.g. Geist et al. 2002; Munro and Rowland 1996), and from the perspective of the living residents. The highly endemized lineages of birds, mammals, and reptiles have been studied extensively and estimates made for their colonization dates and patterns of diversification, which form the backbone of modern evolutionary studies (see Chapter 2, Valle and Parker). However, the identity, prevalence, impact, and general biology of the parasites and pathogens that inhabit Galápagos species are largely unknown. Here we propose a general framework for considering these organisms that have been ignored, possibly because they are so small. We have begun to appreciate that they, too, are evolving, undergoing adaptive radiations, and invading unoccupied niches. We will leave the applied concerns of surveillance and potential corrective measures for these parasites and pathogens to another chapter (see Chapter 10, Parker and Deem), and explore using them as study species. Going forward, we will use the word “parasite” to refer collectively to viruses, bacteria, and other organisms that live in or on the body of another organism known as the host, from which they draw their nutrition at the expense of the host’s fitness. We have measured the distribution and prevalence of parasites among 26 native and three introduced bird species on 16 islands (Parker et al. 2006; Parker 2009b). Across islands, we have documented parasites (1) with long histories with their avian hosts; (2) that have jumped from one host species to another; and (3) that are recent arrivals, some with major impacts. We will discuss each of these categories in turn.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Title of host publicationThe Role of Science for Conservation
PublisherTaylor and Francis
Number of pages17
ISBN (Electronic)9781136458453
ISBN (Print)9780415680714
StatePublished - Jan 1 2012

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Economics, Econometrics and Finance(all)
  • General Business, Management and Accounting


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