, Volume 158, Issue 1, pp 109-116
Date: 05 Aug 2008

Bat fly species richness in Neotropical bats: correlations with host ecology and host brain

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Patterns of ectoparasite species richness in mammals have been investigated in various terrestrial mammalian taxa such as primates, ungulates and carnivores. Several ecological or life traits of hosts are expected to explain much of the variability in species richness of parasites. In the present comparative analysis we investigate some determinants of parasite richness in bats, a large and understudied group of flying mammals, and their obligate blood-sucking ectoparasite, streblid bat flies (Diptera). We investigate the effects of host body size, geographical range, group size and roosting ecology on the species richness of bat flies in tropical areas of Venezuela and Peru, where both host and parasite diversities are high. We use the data from a major sampling effort on 138 bat species from nine families. We also investigate potential correlation between bat fly species richness and brain size (corrected for body size) in these tropical bats. We expect a relationship if there is a potential energetic trade-off between costly large brains and parasite-mediated impacts. We show that body size and roosting in cavities are positively correlated with bat fly species richness. No effects of bat range size and group size were observed. Our results also suggest an association between body mass-independent brain size and bat fly species richness.

Communicated by Blair Wolf.