Sunday, 2 September 2012

Three new species of Chewing Lice from Limpopo Province, South Africa.

Chewing Lice are parasites living in the feathers of Birds (or occasionally the fur of Mammals). They are considered to be more primitive relatives of the more advanced blood-sucking lice; lacking the apparatus for sucking blood they either chew through the skin and lap blood from the resulting wound or simply eat the skin. The biodiversity of the group is not well studied, as the group has not been sampled in many parts of the world, and in many other places only studied on commercially important birds. Since it is likely that most Birds (and many Mammals) play host to unique Chewing Lice there are probably many more species than currently described.

In a paper published in the journal Zootaxa on 28 August 2012, Ali Halajian of the Department of Biodiversity (Zoology) at the University of Limpopo and the Department of Parasitology at the Faculty of Specialised Veterinary Sciences at the Science and Research Branch of the Islamic Azad University, and Oldrich Sychra of the Department of Biology and Wildlife Diseases at the Faculty of Veterinary Hygiene and Ecology at the University of Veterinary and Pharmaceutical Sciences in Brno in the Czech Republic, and Wilmien Luus-Powel and Derek Engelbrecht, also of the Department of Biodiversity (Zoology) at the University of Limpopo, describe three new species of Chewing Lice from Limpopo Province, South Africa, discovered by mist netting Pasarines (songbirds), then examining them carefully for Lice. All three new species are placed in the pre-existing genus Myrsidea.

The first new species is named Myrsidea aynazae, in honour of Ali Halajian's daughter Aynaz. The species is described from 13 individual Lice, found living on Yellow-streaked Greenbuls (Phyllastrephus flavostriatus) in the Woodbush Forest Reserve (roughly 300 km northeast of Pretoria).

The Yellow-streaked Greenbul (Phyllastrephus flavostriatus). Biodiversity Explorer/Izico Museums of Cape Town.
Myrsidea aynazae. (Top) Female. (Bottom) Male. Halajian et al. (2012).

The second new species is named Myrsidea eslamii, in honour of Ali Eslami, a veterinary parasitologist at the University of Tehran. The species is described from 15 individuals all collected from Orange Ground-Thrushes (Zoothera gurneyi) in the Woodbush Forest Reserve.

The Orange Ground-Thrush (Zoothera gurneyi). The Internet Bird Collection/Dubi Shapiro.
Myrsidea eslamii. (Top) Female. (Bottom) Male. Halajian et al. (2012).

The third new species of Chewing Louse is named Myrsidea mariquensis, after the Mariqua Flycatcher (Bradornis mariquensis), the Bird on which it was found. The species is named from three individuals found on Flycatchers in the Woodbush Forest Reserve.

The Mariqua Flycatcher (Bradornis mariquensis). The Internet Bird Collection/Robert Erasmus.
Myrsidea mariquensis. (Top) Female. (Bottom) Male. Halajian et al. (2012).


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