- Associated Press - Friday, January 31, 2014

HILO, Hawaii (AP) - Research by U.S. Geological Survey scientists shows a species of Hawaiian honeycreeper has developed a tolerance for avian malaria.

The agency said Thursday its researchers found Hawaii amakihi birds who live at lower elevations are able to tolerate infections much better than birds from higher elevations.

Their study was published this month in the journal EcoHealth.

Microbiologist Carter Atkinson and his colleagues captured birds from higher and lower elevations, put some in a control groups and exposed others to malaria. Lower elevation birds exposed to malaria lost less weight and had a lower mortality rate than birds from higher elevations.

Avian malaria has devastated many other species of Hawaiian honeycreepers. Mosquitoes and mosquito-borne diseases aren’t native to Hawaii and native birds have no natural resistance to them.

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