Phylogeny and Classification

The origin and classification of fleas remain controversial, in part due to the very poor fossil record. Saurophthirus, from eastern Siberia, and Saurophthirodes, from Mongolia, are Lower Cretaceous fossils that some authors have claimed to be Siphonaptera. It is speculated that these fed on the wing membranes of flying reptiles. However, these lack some of the characters of fleas, for example, jumping hindlegs and lateral body compression. The only certain flea fossils (species of Palaeopsylla, Pulex, and Rhopalopsyllus), from Miocene amber, are assignable to extant families. Both the Diptera and the Mecoptera have been suggested as the sister group to the Siphonaptera, the differences arising from the interpretation of whether the common features of the groups have arisen by convergence or are genuine synapomorphies (see Chapter 2, Section 3.2, and discussions in Hennig, 1981; Kristensen, 1981). Indeed, some authors have gone so far as to suggest that the Siphonaptera should be placed within one of these orders (Byers 1996; Whiting, 2002). Classification of fleas is made difficult by their rather uniform habits and structure, though careful study of their host relationships has been valuable (see Traub, 1985). Depending on the authority, modern fleas are arranged in 2-5 superfamilies and 15 or 16 families. The system of Holland (1964) is followed here.

Superfamily Pulicoidea

Included in this superfamily are the families PULICIDAE and TUNGIDAE. The Puli-cidae, a worldwide family of about 160 species, contains some important cosmopolitan fleas that attack humans and domestic animals, including X. cheopsis, Pulex irritans (the so-called "human flea") (Figure 9.20A) whose normal host is the pig, Ctenocephalides canis and C. felis (dog and cat fleas), and Echidnophaga gallinacea (the sticktight flea). Most Pulicidae have a rather loose association with their hosts, but female sticktight fleas become permanently attached in the manner of ticks. The Tungidae (Figure 9.20B) form a small (about 20 species), mainly tropical group of fleas commonly called jiggers, chigoes, or sand fleas, females of which burrow under the skin of the host, especially under the toenails or between the toes. Hosts include birds, various rodents, and occasionally humans.

Superfamily Malacopsylloidea

The two families that comprise the Malacopsylloidea were originally included in the Ceratophylloidea. The family RHOPALOPSYLLIDAE includes about 120 species of fleas parasitic on sea birds and mammals (mainly rodents). The group is mainly neotropical, but representatives are found also in Australia and southern North America. The MALACOPSYLLIDAE (two species) are found solely on armadillos in South America.

FIGURE 9.20. Siphonaptera. (A) The human flea, Pulex irritans (Pulicidae); (B) the female chigoe flea, Tunga penetrans (Tungidae); (C) the sand-martin flea, Ceratophyllus styx (Ceratophyllidae); and (D) larva of Spilopsyllus cuniculi (Pulicidae). [A, from L. A. Swan and C. S. Papp, 1972, The Common Insects of North America. Copyright 1972 by L. A. Swan and C. S. Papp. Reprinted by permission of Harper & Row Publishers, Inc. B-D, from R. R. Askew, 1971, Parasitic Insects. By permission of Heinemann Educational Books Ltd.]

Beekeeping for Beginners

Beekeeping for Beginners

The information in this book is useful to anyone wanting to start beekeeping as a hobby or a business. It was written for beginners. Those who have never looked into beekeeping, may not understand the meaning of the terminology used by people in the industry. We have tried to overcome the problem by giving explanations. We want you to be able to use this book as a guide in to beekeeping.

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