Lizard Malaria Parasites

Plasmodium floridense

Plasmodium floridense is a parasite of Anolis lizards in the Caribbean islands, and as might be expected from its specific name, also in Florida and Georgia, USA. In the eastern Caribbean islands, it coexists with two species now combined under the name P. azurophilum (see the description of the biology of these species). P. floridense is a much smaller parasite than P. azurophilum and also produces malaria pigment that stains brown or golden brown (lacking in P. azurophilum). The shape of both asexual stages and gametocytes is quite variable, and for some time we wondered if one or more un-named species may also exist in the islands. However, sequencing some of the infections of odd-looking parasites revealed they were, in fact, P. floridense.

Are the Caribbean parasites harmful to anoles? A preliminary study on St. Martin suggested they were, reducing hemoglobin in the lizard's blood (Schall, 1992, Oecologia). However, a detailed study on Saba (Netherlands Antilles) found little harm caused by any of the parasites for the Saban endemic anole (Schall and Staats, 2002, Copeia).

Information on the ecology of P. floridense including its biogeography and systematics can be found in Vardo et al. (2005, Journal of Parasitology), Perkins and Schall (2002, Journal of Parasitology), Schall and Pearson (2000, Journal of Herpetology), Schall et al. (2000, Journal of Parasitology), Schall and Staats (1997, Oecologia), Staats and Schall (1996, Journal of Parasitology), Staats and Schall (1996, Biotropica), and Schall and Vogt (1993, Biotropica).