Life history of Macrocheles muscaedomesticae (Parasitiformes: Macrochelidae): new insights on life history and evidence of facultative parasitism on Drosophila


Macrocheles muscaedomesticae is a cosmopolitan macrochelid mite whose populations have likely diverged considering the many locations they inhabit, but most of the work published on this mite species has been on the basis of their association with the house fly, Musca domestica. Here, we studied several aspects of the biology of M. muscaedomesticae associated with drosophilid flies collected in Alberta, Canada. We assessed the degree of divergence of our populations from others, compared their life history to other published populations and experimentally tested whether M. muscaedomesticae feeds on Drosophila hydei hosts by comparing the body mass of mites that attached to hosts to those that did not. There was no strong phylogenetic differentiation among any of the M. muscaedomesticae specimens, suggesting multiple recent introductions of this species to Canada. Compared to other populations, our mites exhibited lower fecundity, which may have been a result of the temperature or nematode-only diet in which they were maintained. Finally, mites that attached to hosts for 4 h weighed significantly more than those that did not. Without direct evidence for host tissue transfer to the mites, it is difficult to determine whether the mites are indeed feeding on their hosts while attached. However, the existing evidence for the costs fly hosts endure at the expense of these mites makes this relationship antagonistic.

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This research was funded by the Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council of Canada [Discovery Grant #435245]. We thank G. Krantz for offering his expertise and help with identification of our M. muscaedomesticae. We also thank E. Campbell, R. Chen and A. Cook for their help and knowledge on molecular methods and phylogenetic tree interpretation. Finally, we thank S. Fang and P. Phiri for their assistance in fly care, which was essential for the completion of experiments.

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Correspondence to Emily S. Durkin.

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Durkin, E.S., Proctor, H. & Luong, L.T. Life history of Macrocheles muscaedomesticae (Parasitiformes: Macrochelidae): new insights on life history and evidence of facultative parasitism on Drosophila. Exp Appl Acarol 79, 309–321 (2019).

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  • Phoresy
  • Symbiosis
  • COI
  • Ectoparasite
  • Population differentiation