Theses and Dissertations

Issuing Body

Mississippi State University


Outlaw, Diana

Committee Member

Counterman, Brian

Committee Member

Brown, Matt

Date of Degree


Document Type

Graduate Thesis - Open Access


Biological Sciences

Degree Name

Master of Science


College of Arts and Sciences


Department of Biological Sciences


Haemosporidian parasites are the agents of malaria. Countless vertebrates are affected by haemosporidians each year. Haemosporidians have been shown to be evolving at rapid rates; leading to new species of haemosporidians being discovered and new host associations being made. Adaptive molecular evolution was detected in an important hemoglobin degradation gene, falcilysin. At multiple sites across multiple genes involved in important functions signatures of negative selection were detected. The signatures of selection across non-hemoglobin degradation genes were indicative of evolutionary conservation when compared to the more variable hemoglobin degradation genes. This is probably due to the important role the hemoglobin degradation genes play in haemosporidian metabolism. A survey of local passerines detected a parasite prevalence rate of 57%. This included three genera of haemosporidians detected across six lineages and two more distantly related sequences. Leucocytozoon was detected for the first time in Mississippi songbirds, indicating the importance of surveying for understanding haemosporidian evolution and range.