The Microbiotheriid Dromiciops gliroides, also known as 'Monito del Monte', is considered to be a threatened species and the only living representative of this group of South American marsupials. During the last few years, several blood samples from specimens of 'Monito del Monte' captured at Chiloé island in Chile have been investigated for blood parasites. Inspection of blood smears detected a Hepatozoon species infecting red blood cells. The sequences of DNA fragments corresponding to small subunit ribosomal RNA gene revealed two parasitic lineages belonging to Hepatozoon genus. These parasite lineages showed a basal position with respect to Hepatozoon species infecting rodents, reptiles, and amphibians but are phylogenetically distinct from Hepatozoon species infecting the order Carnivora. In addition, the Hepatozoon lineages infecting D. gliroides are also different from those infecting other micro-mammals living in sympatry, as well as from some that have been described to infect an Australian species of bandicoot. The potential vector of this parasite appears to be the host-specific tick Ixodes neuquenensis because the sequencing of a long amplicon determined the presence of one of the two lineages found in the marsupial.
- Host-parasite coevolution
- South America