Chewing Lice

Mallophaga. Feather lice, bird lice.

As its name implies, this order is characterized by having mandibulate mouthparts. Chewing lice consume feathers, hairs, and other cutaneous material, including blood, if accessible (dried from wounds, etc.), and sebaceous secretions. These are more heavily sclerotized than the sucking lice, with well-defined abdominal sclerites and comparatively rigid body. In the majority of species, the head is relatively large, wider than the prothorax, and freely movable. Both of the two suborders are found in Latin America: the Ischnocera have filiform antennae, exposed on the sides of the head, and vertically biting mandibles but lack maxillary palpi; the Amblycera (Clay 1970) have short antennae concealed in pockets on the undersides of the head, mandibles that work laterally, and maxillary palpi.

Both bird- and mammal-infesting species are found among the two groups. They are often very host-specific, especially the Ischnocera, some even being confined to a particular area of the body of birds. A few hosts support a diversity of lice. Tinamous, for example, carry no less than twelve mallophagan genera (Carriker 1953-1962). None live on bats, marine mammals, or lagomorphs. The world's seven widespread families of Mallophaga, plus two endemic families, Abrocomo-phagidae on the rat chinchilla (Emerson and Price 1976) and Trochiliphagidae on hummingbirds, are represented in Latin America. Mammal-associated Amblycera are almost entirely confined to marsupials

Figure 7.1 CHEWING LICE, (a) Cat louse (Felicola felis, Trichodectidae). (b) Bird louse (Para-goniocotes mirabilis, Philopteridae). (c) Oval guinea pig louse (Gyropus ovalis, Gyropidae). (d) Giant bird louse (Laemobothrion opisthocomi, Laemobothriidae). (e) Fowl louse (Menacanthus stramineus, Menoponidae).

Figure 7.1 CHEWING LICE, (a) Cat louse (Felicola felis, Trichodectidae). (b) Bird louse (Para-goniocotes mirabilis, Philopteridae). (c) Oval guinea pig louse (Gyropus ovalis, Gyropidae). (d) Giant bird louse (Laemobothrion opisthocomi, Laemobothriidae). (e) Fowl louse (Menacanthus stramineus, Menoponidae).

and rodents in the Neotropics; those of the Ischnocera infest placental mammals.

Among the Ischnocera, the Philopteridae is the largest family, with diverse species on birds, including the characteristic-Neotropical parrots and macaws (Para-goniocotes, fig. 7.1b) and others. Mammals are the hosts of Trichodectidae, including Felicola on felines (fig. 7.1a) and Geomy-doecus on fossorial rodents (Werneck 1945). Sloths, monkeys, kinkajous, coatis, and other uniquely Neotropical mammals have their own chewing lice as well (Lymeon, Cebidicola, Trichodectes, and Neotrichodectes, respectively). To date, Mallophaga have not been found on the tapir, capybara, anteater, or armadillo.

From the Amblycera, the Gyropidae are well developed in Latin America; there are several small genera on wild pigs and rodents. Gyropus ovalis (fig. 7.1c) and Gliri-colaporcelli are the most common of several guinea pig lice. Bird lice of the family Menoponidae are diverse in species and habits. Piagetiella bursaepelecani lives in the throat pouch of pelicans. Laemobothriidae are typical of water birds and birds of prey. A primitive species, Laemobothrion opisthocomi (fig. 7.Id), parasitizes the likewise primitive hoatzin. The Ricinidae parasitize songbirds. The Trimenoponidae live on marsupials and rodents.

A few introduced, cosmopolitan species are pests of domestic animals. These include mainly the fowl lice, Menacanthus stramineus (fig. 7.1e) and Menopon gallinae, (Ancona 19356); the ox, goat, and donkey lice, Bovicola; and the pigeon louse, Columbi-cola columbae (Ancona 1935a). The latter affect their hosts only when very numerous, when they cause aggravation from their persistent presence as well as skin irritation from feeding.

Aside from host associations, little is known of the biology of chewing lice in Latin America. Many passerine bird hosts have been observed indulging furiously in the habit of "anting" with members of the ant subfamily Formicinae. They squat near an ant nest and passively allow the ants to crawl onto their plumage or place them there with their beaks. Agitation from preening movements causes the ants to release formic acid vapors that apparently act as a repellent to any chewing lice present.

Worldwide, the number of mallophagan species described exceeds 5,000, which is probably less than 10 percent of the species that await discovery. In Latin America, there are several thousand species to be named. Important literature in the study of these lice is provided by Emerson (1967), Werneck (1948), and von Kéler (1960).

References

Ancona, L. 1935a. Contribución al conocimiento de los piojos de los animales de México. I. Columbicola columbae. Inst. Biol. Univ. Nac. Auc. México Anal. 5: 342-351.

Ancona, L. 1935b. Contribución al conocimiento de los piojos de los animales de México. II. Menopon gallinae Linn. Inst. Biol. Univ. Nac. Aut. México Anal. 6: 53-62.

CaRRIKE8' Jr> m- a- 1953-62. Studies in Neotropical Mallophaga. XII. Lice of the tinamous. Pts. 1-2. Rev. Bras. Biol. 13: 209-224, 324-346; pts. 3-4, Bol. Entomol. Venezolana 11: 3-30, 97-131; pts. 5-7, Rev. Brasil. Biol. 21: 205-216, 325-338, 373-384; 22: 433-448 (1962).

Clay, T. 1970. The Amblycera (Phthiraptera: Insecta). Brit. Mus. Nat. Hist. (Entomol.) Bull. 25: 73-98.

Emerson, K. C., ed. 1967. Carriker on Mallophaga. Posthumous papers, catalog of forms described as new, and bibliography. U.S. Natl. Mus. Bull. 248: 1-150.

Emerson, K. C., and R. D. Price. 1976. Abro-comophagidae (Mallophaga: Amblycera), a new family from Chile. Fla. Entomol. 59: 425-428.

von Kéler, S. 1960. Bibliographie der Mallo-phagen. Zool. Mus. Berlin Mitt. 36: 146-403.

Werneck, F. L. 1945. Os tricodectideos dos roedores (Mallophaga). Inst. Oswaldo Cruz Mem. 42: 85-150.

Werneck, F. L. 1948. Os malófagos de mamíferos. 2 vols. Ed. Inst. Oswaldo Cruz, Rio de Janeiro.

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