Increasing prevalence of avian poxvirus in Darwin's finches and its effect on male pairing success

Sonia Kleindorfer*, Rachael Y. Dudaniec

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

51 Citations (Scopus)


Island populations harbour a comparatively species-poor pathogen community, often resulting in naïve host species that experience compromised immunity when faced with novel diseases. Over 95% of the Galápagos avifauna have survived 400 years of human settlement, yet currently face threats due to introduced diseases such as avian poxvirus. On Hawaii, declining populations of birds and even some extinctions have been attributed to avian poxvirus, and hence, identifying the prevalence and fitness costs of avian poxvirus on the Galápagos is a conservation priority. Surveys of avian poxvirus in Darwin's finches on Santa Cruz Island between 2000 and 2004 found a 33% annual increase in the prevalence of pox lesions in ground finches. Comparisons of pox prevalence on three islands (Santa Cruz, Floreana, and Isabela) were made in 2004, which indicated significant variation in pox prevalence across islands (Isabela>Santa Cruz>Floreana). Darwin's finch species were found to be differentially affected by poxvirus, with a higher prevalence in ground finches than in tree finches. There was a significant effect of habitat, even within species, with higher prevalence in the lowlands than highlands. Pox prevalence was not correlated with sex or body condition. However, male small ground finches Geospiza fuliginosa with evidence of pox were less likely to have a mate (16.6% paired) compared with males without pox (77% paired), indicating fitness costs associated with poxvirus infection.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)69-76
Number of pages8
JournalJournal of Avian Biology
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - Jan 2006
Externally publishedYes


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