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Diversity and distribution of avian lice on Greater Flamingo chicks (Phoenicopterus roseus) in Algeria

Posted on 20. December, 2013.

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Interactions between wild birds and ectoparasites have received extensive attention by ecologists because the distribution and dynamics of parasites may drive population processes of their hosts by influencing survival and productivity. Areas of interest include the influence of host morphology and behaviour on ectoparasite numbers and distribution, and their vertical or horizontal transmission. Many studies reported that close proximity of individuals facilitates host infestation with colonial birds harbouring a large number and a great diversity of ectoparasites. Thus, chewing lice usually are transferred by direct contact and, less frequently, by louse flies.

Their feeding can damage feathers, and scratching in response to infestation can cause additional damage. Heavy louse infestations may cause anaemia, weight loss, and death (Price and Graham, 1997; Johnson and Clayton, 2003; Price et al., 2003). Moreover, for various reasons such as host preening and resource competition (Reiczigel and Rózsa, 1998), avian ectoparasitic communities are spatially structured on the host, so are often being confined to specific parts or regions of the bird’s host (Clay, 1949; Nelson and Murray, 1971; Choe and Kim, 1987, 1988).

The ecological diversity and distribution of ectoparasites on Greater Flamingo chicks (Phoenicopterus roseus) were investigated in Algeria at two distinct sites: Ezzemoul (Hauts Plateaux) and Safioune (Sahara) at the end of the breeding seasons of 2009 and 2011. Results from the first records for the Greater Flamingo in North Africa, indicate that they were infested by the following louse species: Colpocephalum heterosoma Piaget and Triniton femoratum Piaget (Menoponidae); Anaticola phoenicopteri (Coinde) and Anatoecus pygaspis Nitzsch (Philopteridae). These data support the hypothesis of a connectivity of the Greater Flamingo metapopulation across the Mediterranean region. The results also suggest that there was a spatial segregation in the distribution of the various louse species across distinct body parts of their hosts. Adaptive explanations for this niche partitioning are suggested.

To read the full article in Avian Biology Research, click here.

doi: 10.3184/175815513X13802162326884

www.avianbiologyresearch.co.uk

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