Dr. Diego Santiago Alarcon, Postdoc

Dr. Diego Santiago Alarcon University Freiburg, Biology I
Hauptstrasse 1
D-79104 Freiburg
Phone: ++49 / 761 / 203 - 2531
E-Mail: onca77@yahoo.com
| Current project | Publications |

Research Interests

1. Taxonomy and systematics of birds (Aves: Columbiformes), avian haemoproteids (Apicomplexa: Haemosporida), Ceratopogonidae and Hippoboscidae (Insecta: Diptera).

2. Evolutionary ecology of host-parasite interactions: focusing on avian haemosporidian systems. Some of the questions I am interested in are: What is(are) the most common diversification mechanisms in haemosporidian parasites? What are the vectors transmitting haemosporidian parasites to birds, mostly to Columbiformes? What kind of within host interactions are observed in haemosporidian parasites? How virulent are haemosporidian parasites for both vertebrate hosts and insect vectors? Where are haemosporidian parasites distributed, in terms of host range and biogeography? What are the phylogenetic relationships of haemosporidian parasites and associated vectors?

To answer these questions I use field observations, experiments, and molecular techniques (e.g. PCR, cloning, sequencing). I am starting to train myself in mathematical modeling techniques in order to include a theoretical component into my research.

Haemoproteus multipigmentatus from the blood of an endemic Galapagos Doves

Current project

The present study aims to identify the ceratopogonid (Culicoides spp.) vectors responsible for Haemoproteus spp. transmission in two subpopulations of the Blackcap (Sylvia atricapilla) that have different wintering grounds (Mediterranean [Spain] and United Kingdom), but that breed in sympatry (migratory divide) in Southern Germany.

Blackcaps arriving from different winter quarters (UK and Mediterranean) differ in their arrival times, with Blackcaps from the UK arriving on average ten days earlier, and establishing territories first. Furthermore, breeding habitat microstructure is different between blackcaps coming from the UK and those coming from southern places.

As such, there is temporal and spatial segregation in the sympatric breeding blackcap populations, which has already translated into neutral genetic and morphological differences just after approximately 60 years since the change in migratory route. Thus, our aim is to identify if Culicoides vectors can be a mechanism that will either maintain an undifferentiated haemosporidian parasite community despite the spatial and temporal segregation of the vertebrate host, or if they will further aid in the isolation of the hemoproteids infecting blackcaps by feeding selectively on birds from different migratory routes.


Leptotila verreauxi
Leptotila verreauxi from the coast of Ecuador (Canoa)
Leptotila verreauxi
A likely way in which parasites jump into humans….!!!


  1. Santiago-Alarcon, D., Hernández, J. de la C., and S.L.W., Arriaga. 2000. Composición y estructura de la avifauna en un humedal sub-urbano de la Cd. de Villahermosa, Tabasco, México. Universidad y Ciencia 16(32):35-41.

  2. Revol de Mendoza, A., Esquivel-Escobedo, D., Santiago-Alarcon, D., Barrera-Saldaña, H.A. 2001. Independent duplication of the gh-pl gene complex of three anthropoidean lineages. Journal of Endocrine Genetics 2: 151-159. PDF

  3. Santiago-Alarcon, D. 2003. Avifauna en dos comunidades de selva baja de tinto (Haematoxylon campechianum) de la reserva de la biosfera pantanos de Centla. Ornitologia Neotropical 14: 515-530. PDF

  4. Padilla L.R., Santiago-Alarcon, D., Merkel, J., Miller, E., and Parker, P.G. 2004. Survey for haemoproteus spp, Trichomonas gallinae, Chlamydophila psittaci, and Salmonella spp. In the Galápagos Islands Columbiformes. Journal of Zoo and Wildlife Medicine. 35: 60-64. PDF

  5. Whiteman N.K., Santiago-Alarcon, D., Johnson, K.P., and Parker, P.G. 2004. Differences in straggling rates between two genera of dove lice (Insecta: Phthiraptera) reinforce population genetic and cophylogenetic patterns. International Journal for Parasitology. 34: 1113-1119. PDF

  6. Santiago-Alarcon, D., Tanksley, S., and Parker, P.G. 2006. Morphological variation and genetic structure of Galápagos Dove (Zenaida galapagoensis) populations: issues in conservation for the Galápagos bird fauna. Wilson Journal of Ornithology 118: 194-207 PDF

  7. Santiago-Alarcon, D. and Parker, P.G. 2007. Sexual size dimorphism and morphological evidence supporting the recognition of two subspecies in the Galápagos Dove. Condor 109:132-141. PDF

  8. Santiago-Alarcon, D., Whiteman, N.K., Parker, P.G., Ricklefs, R.E., and Valki?nas, G. 2008 Patterns of parasite abundance and distribution in island populations of endemic Galápagos birds. Journal of Parasitology 94: 584–590. PDF

  9. Monceau, K.,Gaillard, M., Harrang, E., Santiago-Alarcon, D., Parker, P.G., Cezilly, F., and Wattier, R.A. 2009. Twenty-three polymorphic microsatellite markers for the Caribbean endemic Zenaida dove, Zenaida aurita, and its conservation in related Zenaida species.Conservation Genetics 10: 1577-1581. doi: 10. 1007/s10592-008-9798-4 PDF

  10. Santiago-Alarcon, D., Outlaw, D.C., Ricklefs, R.E. and Parker, P.G. 2010. High lineage diversity of Haemosporidian parasites in New World doves: multiple colonization of the Galapagos Islands. International Journal for Parasitology 40: 463-470 doi:10.1016/j.ijpara.2009.10.003. In press, submitted, and in preparation PDF

  11. Santiago-Alarcon, D., Ricklefs, R.E., and Parker, P.G. 2010. Parasitism effects on the Body condition of the endemic Galápagos Dove (Zenaida galapagoensis) and its relation to host genetic diversity and white blood cell counts. Studies in Avian Biology (in press).

  12. G. Valki?nas, Santiago-Alarcon D., Levin I., Iezhova T.A., and Parker, P.G. Haemoproteus multipigmentatus sp. nov. (Haemosporida, Haemoproteidae) from the endemic Galapagos dove Zenaida galapagoensis, with remarks on the parasite distribution, vectors, and molecular diagnostics. Submitted to Journal of Parasitology.

  13. Santiago-Alarcon, D., Arriaga-Weiss, S.L., and Escobar, O. Bird community composition of Centla Wetlands Biosphere Reserve. Submitted to Ornitologia Neotropical.

  14. Santiago-Alarcon, D., Bloch, R., Schaefer, H. M., and Segelbacher, G. Diversity of avian haemosporidians along a recently evolved migratory divide. In preparation (manuscript exists).

  15. Levin, I., Santiago-Alarcon, D., Cruz, L. L., Hailer, F., Dearborn, D., Fleischer, R. C., Ricklefs, R. E., and Parker, P. G. A new clade of Haemosporidian parasites infecting non-passerine Galapagos birds. In preparation (manuscript exists).

Zenaida galapagoensis
Processing an endemic Galapagos dove (Zenaida galapagoensis) on Darwin Island


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