Nycteribiid Bat Flies are True Flies, Diptera, that have lost their wings and adopted a lifestyle as ectoparasites of Bats. They have an unusual lifestyle, with the larva maturing within the female Fly (which only produces one larva at a time), then being ‘laid’ during the pupa stage. The female Fly leaves her host Bat to lay this pupa, which hatches 3-4 weeks later, producing a new adult that then must find a new Bat host. Historically this group has not been well studied, but it has recently been realized that Bats, and Bat parasites, are important vectors for a number of pathogens, making the understanding of relationships between members of the group and their hosts important to understand.
In a paper published in the journal PLoS One on 27 September 2013, Pablo Tortosa of the Centre de Recherche et de Veillesur les MaladiesEmergentes dans l’Océan Indien and the Université de La Réunion, Najla Dsouli of the Centre de Recherche et de Veillesur les Maladies Emergentes dans l’OcéanIndien and the Institut de Recherche pour le Développement, Yann Gomard and Beza Ramasindrazana of the Centre de Recherche et de Veillesur les Maladies Emergentes dans l’Océan Indien, the Université de La Réunion and the Institut de Recherche pour le Développement, Carl Dick of the Department of Biology at Western Kentucky University and the FieldMuseum of Natural History and Steven Goodman of the Field Museum of Natural History and Association Vahatra investigated the relationships between Nycteribiid Bat Flies and Bats on Madagascar and in the Comoros Islands.
Tortosaet al. sampled Bat Flies from two genera of Bats, the fruit-feeding Rousettus and the insectivorous Miniopterus. One species of Rousettusis found in the Comoros (Rousettus obliviosus) and one in Madagascar (Rousettus madagascariensis), the two species being separated from one-another by about 300 km of open water, which they are apparently unable to cross, and by a similar distance of water from their nearest relative, Rousettus aegyptiacus on the African mainland. The situation with Miniopterus is less simple; two species (Miniopterus griveaudi and Miniopterus aelleni) are found on both Madagascar and the Comoros, and show no genetic differentiation between the two populations, suggesting that these Bats can and do cross the distance between the islands. Another six species of Miniopterus (Miniopterus gleni, Miniopterus mahafaliensis, Miniopterus majori, Miniopterus manavi, Miniopterus petersoni and Miniopterus sororculus) are found on Madagascar only. All these Bats roost in caves in mixed assemblages, often with members of both genera.
The Bats of the genus Rousettus were found to each be infested by a single species of Bat Fly of the genus Eucampsipoda, with Eucampsipoda madagascarensis parasitizing Rousettus madagascariensis on Madagascar, and Eucampsipoda theodoritargeting Rousettus obliviosus in the Comoros.
Eucampsipoda madagascarensis, adult female, dorsal habitus, from Rousettus madagascariensis. Tortosa et al. (2013).
Miniopteru sgriveaudiwas found to be infested by a single species of Bat Fly in the Comoros, Nycteribia stylidiopsis, but on Madagascar was also infested by Penicillidia leptothrinax and a second, unknown species of Penicillidia. Miniopteru saelleni was not encountered in the Comoros during the study, but was found to be infested by Nycteribia stylidiopsis in Madagascar.
Penicillidia leptothrinax, adult female, dorsal habitus, from Miniopterus manavi. Tortosa et al. (2013).
Nycteribia stylidiopsis was also found on Miniopterus gleni, Miniopterus majori, and Miniopterus petersoni on Madagascar, while Penicillidia leptothrinax was also found on Miniopterus gleni, Miniopterus mahafaliensis, Miniopterus majori, Miniopterus manavi, Miniopterus petersoni and Miniopterus sororculus, while the new species of Penicillidia was also found on Miniopterus gleni. This suggests that these Flies happily move between Bats of the genus Miniopterus, though they apparently avoid the unrelated Rousettus.
Nycteribia stylidiopsis, adult female, dorsal habitus, from Miniopterus gleni. Tortosa et al. (2013).
A genetic study of the Bat flies showed that as with their hosts, the two species of Eucampsipoda from Madagascar and the Comoros were distinct, while the populations of Nycteribia stylidiopsis from Madagascar and the Comoros were undistinguishable and apparently not separate. Two species of Penicillidia were encountered, both restricted to Madagascar.
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