Absence of Mycoplasma spp. in nightingales (Luscinia megarhynchos) and blue (Cyanistes caeruleus) and great tits (Parus major) in Germany and its potential implication for evolutionary studies in birds
Mycoplasma spp. are important pathogens in poultry and cause high economic losses for poultry industry worldwide. In other bird species (e.g. white storks, birds of prey, and several waterfowl species), Mycoplasma spp. are regularly found in healthy individuals, hence, considered apathogenic or part of the microbiota of the upper respiratory tract. However, as Mycoplasma spp. are absent in healthy individuals of some wild bird species, they might play a role as respiratory pathogen in these bird species, e.g. Mycoplasma gallisepticum in house finches. The knowledge on the occurrence of Mycoplasma spp. in wild birds is limited. To evaluate the relevance of Mycoplasma spp. in free-ranging nightingales and tits, 172 wild caught birds were screened for the presence of mycoplasmas. The birds were sampled via choanal swabs and examined via molecular methods (n = 172) and, when possible, via culture (n = 142). The Mycoplasma sp. was determined by sequencing the 16S rRNA gene and 16S-23S Intergenic Transcribed Spacer Region. All birds were tested negative for mycoplasmas via PCR and/or mycoplasmal culture. Hence, free-ranging nightingales and tits do not show any mycoplasma in their microbial flora of the respiratory tract. Therefore, these songbird species may suffer from clinical mycoplasmosis when being infected. We hypothesize that birds relying on their vocal ability for reproduction have excluded mycoplasmas from their respiratory flora compared to other bird species.