14:08 22 July 2009 by Catherine Brahic – NewScientist
Penguins and malaria are not two organisms you would normally associate with each other, yet biologists have found the malaria parasite in an endangered species of the black-and-white waddlers.
Iris Levin of the University of Missouri at St Louis and her colleagues took blood samples from 362 Galapagos penguins – already listed as being threatened with extinction – on nine islands in the Galapagos archipelago.
All of the birds appeared healthy, but the tests revealed that 19 of the penguins, 5 per cent, carried the Plasmodium parasite, which causes malaria. The infected birds were spread across the archipelago, suggesting the parasite is not restricted to one small colony of penguins. Galapagos penguins move around the islands, so the parasite is likely to spread further, say the researchers.
“Plasmodium in Galapagos penguins is potentially disastrous for this species,”