Wednesday, March 16, 2016

Two new batfleas: Araeopsylla goodmani and Araeopsylla smiti

Fleas are wingless insects. However, their legs are long, the hind pair well adapted for jumping. A flea can jump vertically up to 18 cm and horizontally up to 33 cm, making it one of the best jumpers of all known animals (relative to body size), second only to the froghopper. If humans had the jumping power of a flea, a average size person could make a jump 90 m long and 49 m high. 

Fleas are external parasites, living off the blood of mammals and birds. They have mouthparts adapted for piercing skin and sucking blood. Today's new species are specialized on blood from bats and were found in Madagascar.

Araeopsylla goodmani was named in honor of its collector, Dr. Steven M. Goodman from the Field Museum of Natural History, Chicago. Mr. F.G.A.M. Smit, during his long tenure at the British Museum, London was a major contributor to our knowledge of the global flea fauna, Araeopsylla smiti was named after him. 

For the experts: The flea genus Araeopsylla Jordan and Rothschild, 1921 contains nine species distributed throughout the Palaearctic, Ethiopian and Oriental Regions primarily on mollosid bats. A new species of bat flea, Araeopsylla goodmani, is described. This new species is represented by three females collected from one male specimen of the mollosid bat Chaerephon jobimena Goodman & Cardiff, 2004 from Fianarantsoa Province, Madagascar. A second new species, Araeopsylla smiti, is described from one male from the Rift Valley, Kenya. It was collected from the molossid bat Chaerephon bivittatus (Heuglin, 1861). This represents the first record of Araeopsylla in Kenya. Previous records of Araeopsylla in the Malagasy region included Araeopsylla martialis (Rothschild, 1903) from Reunion Island and Madagascar. One hundred fifty-eight specimens (64♂, 94♀) of A. martialis were collected from 67 specimens (flea intensity of 2.4 fleas per host) of Mormopterus jugularis (Peters, 1865) across three provinces of Madagascar (Fianarantosa, Toamasina, and Toliara). Mormopterus jugularis is clearly a common host for A. martialis. Dampfia grahami grahami (Waterston, 1915) is also reported from Eptesicus matroka (Thomas & Schwann, 1905) which is the first record from this host species and the first time the genus Dampfia has been documented in Madagascar. Although Lagaropsylla consularis Smit, 1957 and Lagaropsylla idae Smit, 1957 have been reported in Madagascar previously, Mops leucostigma Allen, 1918 is a new host record for L. idae. The flea intensity of L. idae (64♂, 83♀) on 28 specimens of M. leucostigma was extremely high at 5.3 fleas per host. A key to the genus Araeopsylla is provided.

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