Mem Inst Oswaldo Cruz, Rio de Janeiro, 97(4) June 2002
Short communication

Pelecitus helicinus Railliet & Henry, 1910 (Filarioidea, Dirofilariinae) and Other Nematode Parasites of Brazilian Birds

Yoshika Oniki, JM KinsellaI, Edwin O WillisII

Instituto de Estudos da Natureza, Rio Claro, SP, Brasil
IDepartment of Pathobiology, College of Veterinary Medicine, University of Florida, Gainesville, FL, USA
IIDepartamento de Zoologia, Unesp, Caixa Postal 199, 13506-900 Rio Claro, SP, Brasil

Page: 597-598
1100 views 402 downloads

We reportu00a0Pelecitus helicinusu00a0Railliet & Henry, 1910 from 13 species of birds of 2 orders and 7 families, collected from the states of São Paulo and Mato Grosso, Brazil. All 13 constitute new host records for this nematode. In addition, we report the first record ofu00a0Aprocta golvaniu00a0Diaz-Ungria, 1963 from Brazil andu00a0Monasa nigrifronsu00a0(Bucconidae), as well as a number of other nematode records from Neotropical birds.

In many South American countries, our knowledge of the biodiversity of helminths in Neotropical birds remains in its infancy, with even the most basic data on parasite distribution, prevalence, and life cycles lacking for common species. Nematodes in Brazilian birds are an exception, thanks to studies of specialists mainly from the Instituto Oswaldo Cruz, Rio de Janeiro (Pinto et al. 1993, Vicente et al. 1995), but even in Brazil hundreds of species of birds in the rain forest have yet to be examined for parasites. As pointed out by Garvin et al. (1997), ornithologists working in the field banding or collecting specimens for museums can greatly increase the value of these specimens by also examining them for parasites and submitting them to appropriate authorities.

Bartlett and Greiner (1986) stated that the genus Pelecitus Railliet & Henry, 1910 is the most widely distributed avian filaroid genus known, reported from 30 families of birds representing 16 orders. They listed Pelecitus helicinus (Molin, 1860) from members of Dendro-colaptidae, Furnariidae, Formicariidae, Cotingidae, Tyrannidae, Muscicapidae, Emberizidae, Parulidae, Icteridae and Corvidae. Pinto et al. (1993) also found this species in several members of the Psittacidae. Arruda et al. (2001) reported Pelecitus sp. from herons Syrigma sibilatrix and Tigrisoma lineatum (Ardeidae).

During 1983-1984 and 1987-1988, were banded birds at Fazenda São José (22o21'S, 47o29'W, 675 m, Rio Claro, state of São Paulo) and in 1987-1988 at Serra das Araras (15o3'S, 57o12'W, State of Mato Grosso), Brazil. During these periods, special attention was given to ectoparasites and endoparasites. Here, we report on nematodes found in or around the digestive tract and around the tendons of the legs and feet, the latter briefly reported in Oniki (1999).

At Fazenda São José, nematodes were collected from the legs of live birds, which were then banded and released. The worms were collected by squeezing the wound and pulling them out with forceps, and were preserved in 70% ethyl alcohol. The abdominal areas of birds from Mato Grosso were also examined for nematodes during preparation of skins before the birds were deposited at the Department of Biology of the Universidade Federal de Mato Grosso (Cuiabá) (Oniki & Willis 1999). In the laboratory, nematodes were cleared and studied in temporary mounts of lactophenol.

Nematodes identified as P. helicinus were found in 13 species of birds from 2 orders and 7 families. Table lists the species of birds infected, as well as the prevalence, localization, and numbers of worms collected. All 13 species are new host records for this nematode. Nematodes were found over much of the year. Most of the worms were found in the ankle (tibiotarsus/tarsometatarsus) and foot joint (tarsometatarsus/digits). The infected sites were swollen and reddish, and often with a hole in the skin with oozing blood, especially if the bird had scratched the wound. In one case of a female Habia rubica, there were 4 holes in the swollen foot joint. However, at other times the site was swollen but the wound was healed and closed. In this case, a small hole was made with forceps to extract the nematodes. In another case, with Myiarchus swainsoni, the bone seemed weakened by the infection.

P. helicinus is an extreme case of a non-host specific nematode (generalist) which can infect many birds in many different families (Bartlett & Greiner 1986). In general, these are bird species that live low in the forest undergrowth, and go to the ground to forage or dissect food, such as antbirds (Pyriglena leucoptera, Drymophila ochropyga), or emberizids such as H. rubica and Tri-chothraupis melanops. These species form bird flocks that wander low in the forest understory. Previous Brazilian records of P. helicinus (Vicente et al. 1995) are from three canopy parrots and from a canopy flycatcher, however.

In D. ochropyga, 2 males were infected while 1 out of 5 P. leucoptera was male and one out of 6 H. rubica was male. Thus, in P. leucoptera and H. rubica, females were more infected than males. In wild birds, the number of birds infested is low when compared to the total handled.

The following birds from the State of Mato Grosso were found infected with nematodes: 1 Crotophaga anis (Crotophagidae) infected by 5-6 Subulura reclinata (Rudolphi, 1819) (Oxyuridae) 1 cm long, found in the intestine (CHIOC Accession no. 34657); 2 individuals of Gnorimopsar chopi (Icteridae) with Diplotriaena bargusinica Skrjabin, 1917 in the body cavity (CHIOC accession no. 34656); 1 Furnarius rufus (Furnariidae) with 1 Diplotriaena sylvinae Pinto & Noronha, 1970, in the body cavity; 1 Celeus lugubris(Picidae) with 1 female Procyrnea sp. (Spiruridae) in the proventriculus; and 2 Monasa nigrifrons (Bucconidae) with Aprocta golvaniDiaz-Ungria, 1963 in the body cavity (CHIOC accession no. 34659). All of these species have been reported from Brazil previously (Vicente et al. 1995), except for A. golvani, which was described from M. atra in Venezuela (Diaz-Ungria 1963). Subulura reclinatahad been found in 2 C. anisD. sylvinae in F. rufusProcyrnea sp. in hummingbirds, falconiformes and a stork (not in a woodpecker, see Vicente et al. 1995).

Voucher specimens have been deposited in the helminthological collection of the Instituto Oswaldo Cruz (CHIOC, accession numbers above), Rio de Janeiro, 



To Projeto Polonoroeste for the fellowship offered to YO; to Universidade Estadual Paulista for logistical support and permission from Ibama and Cemave to capture and band wild birds; to EC Greiner, TM Stock, and CM Bartlett for helping us with reprints and/or identification at early stages of study.



Arruda VS, Pinto RM, Muniz LC 2001. New host and geographical records for helminths parasites of Ardeidae (Aves, Ciconiiformes) in Brazil. Rev Brasil Zool 18 (Supl. 1): 225-232.

Bartlett CM, Greiner EC 1986. A revision of Pelecitus Railliet & Henry, 1910 (Filarioidea, Dirofilariinae) and evidence for the "capture" by mammals of filarioids from birds. Bull Mus Nat Hist 8: 47-99.

Diaz-Ungria C 1963. Nématodes parasites, nouveaux ou intéres-sants du Vénézuela. Ann Parasit Hum Comp 38: 893-913.

Garvin MC, Bates JM, Kinsella JM 1997. Field techniques for collecting and preserving helminth parasites from birds, with new geographic and host records of parasitic nematodes from Bolivia. Ornithol Monog 48: 261-266.

Oniki Y 1999. Avian parasites and notes on habits of lice from Mato Grosso, Brazil. Iheringia, sér Zool, 86: 187-190.

Oniki Y, Willis EO 1999. Body mass, cloacal temperature, morphometrics, breeding and molt of birds of the Serra das Araras region, Mato Grosso, Brazil. Ararajuba 7: 17-21.

Pinto RM, Vicente JJ, Noronha D 1993. Nematode parasites of Brazilian psittacid birds, with emphasis on the genusPelecitus Railliet & Henry, 1910. Mem Inst Oswaldo Cruz 88: 279-284.

Vicente JJ, Rodrigues HO, Gomes DC, Pinto RM 1995. Nematóides do Brasil. Parte IV: Nematóides de aves. Rev Brasil Zool 12 (Supl. 1): 1-273.

Publication no. 24 of the Instituto de Estudos da Natureza.

+Corresponding author. Fax: +55-19-5340.009.
Received 10 September 2001
Accepted 28 January 2002

Our Location

Memórias do Instituto Oswaldo Cruz

Av. Brasil 4365, Castelo Mourisco 
sala 201, Manguinhos, 21040-900 
Rio de Janeiro, RJ, Brazil

Tel.: +55-21-2562-1222

This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

Support Program


fiocruz governo
faperj cnpq capes