Host associations and climate influence avian haemosporidian distributions in Benin.
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A majority of avian haemosporidian diversity likely remains undiscovered, and each new recovery helps to further elucidate distributional patterns of diversification. We conducted the first known sampling of avian haemosporidians, Haemoproteus, Leucocytozoon, and Plasmodium from Benin located in tropical West Africa. We sampled 222 birds of 77 species and across distinct ecoregions with varied habitats. Haemosporidians were detected in 113 of 222 individuals, resulting in a 50.9% infection rate. By molecular analysis, we recovered a high number of novel lineages, 52.9%, and characterized the multivariate variables which influence the distributions of haemosporidian genetic lineages, including host associations and bioclimatic variables. We introduced a novel visualization method to better capture the multivariate environment of haemosporidians, and this approach resulted in the recovery of intra-generic distribution patterns of diversity, although no patterns were recovered at the genus level. Our results remain descriptive in nature, but show the promise of predictive strength with an increase in sampling localities with future work. Assessing host and bioclimatic variables at a larger geographic scale and across multiple ecoregions will help to elucidate processes regulating the distribution of haemosporidian diversity.