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Major Research Areas

Malaria Parasite Evolution & Genetics

My lab has studied the diversity, evolution, and genetics of a group of parasitic protists known as haemosporidians. This group includes the parasites that cause the disease malaria in humans, but also more than 600 other species that use other vertebrates - birds, lizards, bats, ungulates - as their hosts. We use these diverse parasites to better understand how the parasites have evolved to use hosts, invade cells, and digest hemoglobin.

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Microbiomes of Wild Hosts

The microbiome, the collection of bacteria, archaea, protists, and viruses that live in and on another organism, is vital to the host's survival. My lab has studied the diversity of the bacteria that are associated with wild hosts such as bats, birds, and insects.


Genetics & Evolution of Other Parasites

In addition to haemosporidians, members of my lab have also studied the systematics, diversification, and evolution of many other parasites, such as heart worms, pinworms, ticks, and other blood parasites such as trypanosomes and hemogregarines.

Featured Publications

Ingala, M.R., N. B. Simmons, C. Wultsch, K. Krampis, K. L .Provost, S. L. Perkins. 2021. Molecular diet analysis of neotropical bats based on fecal DNA metabarcoding. Ecology and Evolution. 11:7474-7491.


Galen, S. C., J. Borner, S. L. Perkins ,and  J.D. Weckstein. 2020. Phylogenomics from transcriptomic “bycatch” clarify the origins and diversity of avian trypanosomes in North America. PloS ONE 15 (10), e0240062.

Winterhoff, M. L., A. S. Achmadi, E. J. Roycroft, H. Handika, R. T. J. Putra, K. M. C. Rowe, S. L. Perkins, K. C. Rowe. 2020. Native and introduced trypanosome parasites in endemic and introduced rodents of Sulawesi. Journal of Parasitology 106: 523-536.


Galen, S. C., J. Borner, J. L. Williamson, C. C. Witt, and S. L. Perkins. 2020. Metatranscriptomics yields new genomic resources and sensitive detection of infections for diverse blood parasites. Molecular Ecology Resources 20:12-28. 


Speer, K.A., N.M. Dheilly, and S.L. Perkins. 2020. Microbiomes are integral to conservation of parasitic arthropods. Biological Conservation. 108695.


Galen, S.C., K. Speer, and S.L. Perkins. 2019. Evolutionary lability of host associations promotes phylogenetic over dispersion of co-infecting blood parasites. Journal of Animal Ecology 88:1936-1949.


Dheilly, N. W., J. Martínez, K. Rosario, P.J. Brindles, R. Fichorova, J. Kaye, K. Kohl, L. Knoll, J. Lukes, S. L. Perkins, R. Poulin, L. Schriml, and L. R. Thompson. 2019. Parasite Microbiome Project: Grand Challenges. PLoS Pathogens. 15(10): e1008028.


Perkins, S. L. 2018. Parasitology: diversity and inclusion for the future. Journal of Parasitology 104:579-583. 


Galen, S.C., R. Nunes, P. R. Sweet, and S. L. Perkins. 2018. Integrating coalescent species delimitation with analysis of host specificity reveals extensive cryptic diversity despite minimal mitochondrial divergence in the malaria parasite genus Leucocytozoon. BMC Evolutionary Biology 18:128.

Ingala, M.R., N.B. Simmons, and S.L.Perkins. 2018. Bats are an untapped system for understanding microbiome evolution in mammals. mSphere 3:e00397-18.


Galen, S.C., Borner, J., Martinsen, E.,Schaer, J., Austin, C. C., West, C., Perkins, S.L. 2018. The polyphyly of Plasmodium: Comprehensive phylogenetic analyses of the malaria parasites (order Haemosporida) reveal widespread taxonomic conflict.  Royal Society Open Science. 5: 171780 

Rodriguez,Z.B., S. L. Perkins, and C.C. Austin.  2018.  Multiple origins of green blood in New Guinea lizards. Science Advances. 4: eaaao5017.

Ingala, M. R., N. Simmons, C. Wultsch, K. Krampis, K. A. Speer, S. L. Perkins.  2018. Comparing microbiome sampling methods in a wild mammal: Fecal and intestinal samples record different signals of host ecology, evolution.  Frontiers in Microbiology 9:803.

Perkins, S.L. and J. Schaer. 2016. A modern menagerie of mammal malaria. Trends in Parasitology. 32:772-782.


Martinsen et al. 2016. Hidden in plain sight: Cryptic and endemic malaria parasites in North American white-tailed deer (Odocoileus virginianus).  Science Advances 2: e1501486


Falk, B.G., R.E. Glor, and S.L. Perkins. 2015. Clonal reproduction shapes evolution in the lizard malaria parasite, Plasmodium floridense. Evolution. 69:1584-1596.


Perkins, S. L. 2014. Malaria's many mates: past, present, and future of the systematics of the order Haemosporida. Journal of Parasitology 100:11-25.  


Schaer, J., S.L. Perkins, J.Decher, F. Leendertz, J.Fahr, N.Weber, and K.Matuschewski. 2013. High diversity of West Africa bat malaria parasites and a tight link with rodent Plasmodium taxa. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, USA.110:17415-17419.

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