Host-parasite relationship of birds (Aves) and lice (Phthiraptera) – evolution, ecology and faunistics

Publication Type:Thesis
Year of Publication:2014
Authors:Z. Vas
Academic Department:School of Veterinary Science
Number of Pages:275 pp
University:Szent István Egyetem (Szent István University)
City:Budapest, Hungary
Keywords:evolution, Host-parasite relationship

The host-parasite relationship is one of the most complex and intimate associations in nature. In this thesis I present a multidisciplinary approach to investigate the host-parasite relationship of lice (Insecta: Phthiraptera: Amblycera, Ischnocera) and their avian (and sometimes mammalian) hosts (Vertebrata: Aves, Mammalia). I apply both modern statistical methodologies of evolutionary comparative analysis and classical zoological methodologies such as sampling in the field for faunistical purposes.

The understanding of the diversity component of host-parasite relationships is a major and yet scarcely discovered field of evolutionary ecology. Here I present a review of the previous literature and three original studies published by myself and my co-authors concerning the factors that shape louse diversity at macroevolutionary level (Chapter 1). I show a positive co-variation found between avian cognitive capabilities and Amblyceran louse richness; a decrease in louse richness due to the brood-parasitic life-style of the hosts; and a positive diversity interaction between Ischnoceran louse richness and foster species richness of brood-parasitic cuckoos. The supposed positive co-variation between host and parasite diversity – an assumption originating from Eichler (1942, the so called Eichler’s rule) – were revisited and tested for the first time with modern methodologies across a wide range of avian and mammalian hosts and their lice, and showed to be the strongest and most general diversity pattern of host-parasite evolution found so far.

Chapter 2 incorporates papers related to different aspects of louse faunistics as well as the review of their background. First, I summarize the Hungarian louse fauna based on formerly published records. Second, I report that this checklist was significantly extended by my own recent collections. The third paper is a methodological contribution that points out a formerly overlooked bias in currently widespread sampling projects: the handling of avian host individuals during the bird ringing procedure can reduce the louse burden. Finally, in the last paper I provide global checklist of critically endangered species of parasitic lice.

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Scratchpads developed and conceived by (alphabetical): Ed Baker, Katherine Bouton Alice Heaton Dimitris Koureas, Laurence Livermore, Dave Roberts, Simon Rycroft, Ben Scott, Vince Smith