Lizard Malaria


Schellackia is a genus of Apicomplexan parasites, most likely within the hemogregarines or related to those parasites. The parasites in these pictures were all identified as Schellackia, but as can be seen, there are not many real characters to aid in identification. The species in California fence lizards undergoes asexual replication in the cells of the intestine, followed by sexual recombination, and eventually casts sporozoites into the blood cells. These cells are taken up in a blood meal of a mite where development of the parasite does not continue. The mite acts strictly as a passive vector. Lizards eat the mites and become infected when the parasite emerges from the blood cell in the lizard's stomach. Schellackia, or parasites very similar to Schellackia have been found in lizards all over the world during our collecting trips and are often far more common than any malaria parasites. These parasites may be confused at first with male gametocytes of Plasmodium. Above are pictures of the parasites found in a variety of lizards from our collecting trips.