Molecular phylogeny and novel host associations of avian chewing lice (Insecta: Phthiraptera) from South Africa
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2018 The Royal Entomological Society Compared with Europe and the Americas, the ectoparasites of African birds are poorly understood, despite the avian fauna being relatively well known. Notably, previous studies documenting the host associations and genetic diversity of parasitic chewing lice of southern African birds have been limited in geographic and taxonomic scope. Recent field expeditions exploring the avian diversity in South Africa facilitated an opportunity to obtain louse specimens from a taxonomically diverse host assemblage. This study is the first to investigate avian louse host associations and diversity across a large portion of South Africa encompassing several distinct habitat types, while incorporating molecular genetic data (from portions of the mitochondrial COI and nuclear EF-1 genes) for ectoparasite phylogenetic analyses. From 1105 South African bird individuals and 170 species examined for lice, a total of 105 new lousehost associations were observed. Morphological and genetic examination of lice with these new host associations reveals a maximum of 66 louse species new to science. Results of this study support the observation that examining museum specimens is a useful way to investigate louse diversity and host associations.