Behavior And Ecology

Both sexes of hippoboscoid flies feed as ectoparasites on the blood of birds or mammals. Host specificity varies considerably among different groups. Some are restricted to a single host species. Others are restricted to a genus or to several related genera of hosts, whereas still others are generalists that feed on a relatively wide range of host taxa.

Hippoboscidae occur on 18 orders of birds and 5 orders of mammals. No species occurs on both birds and mammals. Nor, with the exception of Hippobosca, does any genus occur on both birds and mammals. Host specificity is more marked in species parasitic on mammals than in those parasitic on birds. Apterous species and those with reduced wings, or those which have lost their wings altogether, tend to be most host-specific. In addition, the more advanced or specialized species tend to be more host-specific.

Members of the Streblidae and Nycteribiidae are exclusively parasites of bats (order Chiroptera). No species of either family is known to occur naturally on both of the chiropteran suborders, Megachiroptera and Microchiroptera. Host specificity varies widely within the streblid bat flics and nycteribiid bat flies from one to many host species. According to Wenzel et al. (1966), New World streblids, which tend ro be host-specific, have become adapted to living and feeding on particular body regions. Individual species are restricted to the wing membranes, head, or trunk. Some bats (e.g., Phyllosto-mus hastatus) commonly harbor three or four species at the same time, with most hosts having at least two species.

Nycteribiidae, and most species of Streblidae and Hippoboscidae, deposit their offspring away from their hosts. The fully developed third-stage larva is dropped to the ground, litter, or nesting material; deposited in a preferred site; or attached to the host or other suitable substrate. Female nycteribiid and streblid flies leave their hosts to deposit larvae in the vicinity of bat roosts. This includes bat-roost surfaces, walls of caves, and branches or leaves of trees.

In the Hippoboscinae, the freshly deposited larva of Melophagus is covered with a secretion which hardens upon drying and glues the puparium to the hairs of the host. Neolipoptena and Lipoptena, which shed their wings after reaching the host, also larviposit on the host. These larvae are not fastened to the host and eventually drop to the ground. Most Hippobosca species larviposit away from the host in some favored location, as does the pigeon fly Pseudolynchia canariensis. Many species of Hippoboscidae that feed on nesting birds larviposit in nesting materials, from which their puparia may be collected.

Winged streblids move readily from one bat to another within a roost. Similarly, winged hippoboscids are very mobile. Newly emerged Lipoptena and Neolipoptena often swarm in large numbers in search of a host at certain seasons. These volants have functional wings that break off near the base after the host is reached. Once on the host, adults move swiftly among feathers or hair and are difficult to collect. The relatively slow-moving sheep ked is an exception.

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