Could the ‘vulture restaurants’ be a lifeboat for the recently rediscovered bone-skippers (Diptera: Piophilidae)?

  • Daniel Martín-VegaEmail author
  • Arturo Baz


The European bone-skippers Thyreophora cynophila and Centrophlebomyia furcata (Diptera: Piophilidae) had been considered as globally extinct or extinct in Europe, respectively, until their recent rediscovery in Spain. Improved hygienic conditions in livestock management and disposal of large carcasses (the preferred breeding sites for the bone-skippers) have been implicated as the main cause for their disappearance. The decline of many European avian scavenger populations in the last centuries has also been attributed to the same cause, which has promoted the creation of the commonly named ‘vulture restaurants’. Although these supplementary feeding stations are important to support scavenging bird populations, the present work demonstrates that they provide a guaranteed supply of food for rare necrophagous species like the European bone-skippers which have recently been rediscovered.


Thyreophora cynophila Centrophlebomyia furcata Carrion Ecosystem function Vulture restaurants 



There have been many people who have contributed to this work. We acknowledge the invaluable assistance of Marco Antonio Nieto, curator of the Department of Zoology and Physical Anthropology of the University of Alcalá, whose skills in the management of carcasses have greatly facilitated our work. Others have facilitated access to the ‘vulture restaurants’. In the province of Guadalajara, we are indebted to David Sánchez (Director) and Cristina García of the General Directorate of Protected Areas and Biodiversity, Juan Sanz, María García Olaya and Ana María Ballester of the Provincial Service of Protected Areas and Biodiversity of Guadalajara, and Vicente García, forestry agent. In the province of Segovia, we thank the efforts of Francisco Sánchez Aguado, Director of the Natural Park ‘Hoces del Río Riaza’. El Espinar facilities could be visited through the kindness of José Aguilera, a member of the collective ‘Campo Azálvaro’ which provides food for vultures. Marisol Redondo, responsible biologist for the conservation of flora and fauna in ‘Centro Montes y Aserradero de Valsaín’, allowed us access and kindly accompanied us to the ‘vulture restaurant’ of Valsaín. Juan Francisco Sánchez Rodríguez facilitated access to the private estate ‘El Castañar’ in Toledo. We are also grateful to an anonymous reviewer for his comments and suggestions to improve the manuscript and to Tim Shreeve for his revision and corrections on English language. This work has been funded by the Spanish Ministerio de Ciencia y Tecnología (Research Project BOS2003-00400). The authors are members of the IUICP (Instituto Universitario de Investigación en Ciencias Policiales) of the University of Alcalá. DM-V works with a scholarship from the IUICP (Project IUICP/PI2010/001).


  1. Anderson MD, Anthony A (2005) The advantages and disadvantages of vulture restaurants versus simply leaving livestock (and game) carcasses in the veldt. Vulture News 53:42–45Google Scholar
  2. Antón Burgos FJ (2007) Trashumancia y turismo en España. Cuad Turismo 20:27–54Google Scholar
  3. Baz A, Cifrián B, Martín-Vega D, Baena M (2010) Phytophagous insects captured in carrion-baited traps in central Spain. Bull Insectol 63:21–30Google Scholar
  4. Braack LEO (1987) Community dynamics of carrion-attendant arthropods in tropical African woodland. Oecologia 72:402–409CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  5. Carles-Tolrá M, Rodríguez PC, Verdú J (2010) Thyreophora cynophila (Panzer, 1794): collected in Spain 160 years after it was thought to be extinct (Diptera: Piophilidae: Thyreophorina). Bol SEA 46:1–7Google Scholar
  6. Courtney GW, Pape T, Skevington JH, Sinclair BJ (2009) Biodiversity of diptera. In: Footit RG, Adler PH (eds) Insect biodiversity: science and society. Wiley-Blackwell, Chichester, pp 185–222CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  7. Donázar JA, Cortés-Avizanda A, Carrete M (2010) Dietary shifts in two vultures after the demise of supplementary feeding stations: consequences of the EU sanitary legislation. Eur J Wildl Res 56:613–621CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  8. Fabricius JC (1794) Entomologia systematica emendata et aucta. vol 4, CopenhagenGoogle Scholar
  9. Fontaine B, Bouchet P, van Achtherberg K et al (2007) The European union’s 2010 target: putting rare species in focus. Biol Cons 139:167–185CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  10. Freidberg A (1981) Taxonomy, natural history and immature stages of the bone-skipper, Centrophlebomyia furcata (Fabricius) (Diptera: Piophilidae, Thyreophorina). Entomol Scand 12:320–326Google Scholar
  11. Fundación CBD-Hábitat (2010) Guía para la alimentación de aves necrófagas con subproductos animales no destinados a consumo humano. Obra social caja Madrid. Accessed 10 July 2011
  12. Gómez-Gómez A, Díaz-Aranda LM, Michelsen V (2009) Rediscovery of Centrophlebomyia furcata (Fabricius, 1794) (Diptera: Piophilidae) in Europe. Studia Dipterol 15(2008):237–241Google Scholar
  13. Margalida A, Donázar JA, Carrete M, Sánchez-Zapata JA (2010) Sanitary versus environmental policies: fitting together two pieces of the puzzle of European vulture conservation. J Appl Ecol 47:931–935CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  14. Martín-Vega D, Baz A, Michelsen V (2010) Back from the dead: Thyreophora cynophila (Panzer, 1798) (Diptera: Piophilidae) ‘globally extinct’ fugitive in Spain. Syst Entomol 35:607–613CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  15. McAlpine JF (1977) A revised classification of the Piophilidae, including ‘Neottiophilidae’ and ‘Thyreophoridae’ (Diptera: Schizophora). Mem Entomol Soc Can 103:1–66CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  16. Olea PP, Mateo-Tomás P (2009) The role of traditional farming practices in ecosystem conservation: The case of transhumance and vultures. Biol Conserv 142:1844–1853CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  17. Panzer GWF (1798) Faunae Insectorum Germaniae oder Deutschlands Insecten H. 54(1794). NürnbergGoogle Scholar
  18. Paramonov SJ (1954) Notes on Australian Diptera (XIII–XV). Ann Mag Nat Hist 7:275–297Google Scholar
  19. Ríos T (1902) Los insectos y la putrefacción de los cadáveres (III–IV). La Cínica Moderna 1(4):171–180Google Scholar
  20. Robineau-Desvoidy JB (1830) Essai sur les myodaires. Mém Présentés par divers savans à l’Académia Royale des Sciences des l’Institut de France 2:1–813Google Scholar
  21. Robineau-Desvoidy JB (1842) Note sur le Thyreophora cynophila. Ann Soc Entomol Fr 10:273Google Scholar
  22. Ruiz M, Ruiz JP (1986) Ecological history of transhumance in Spain. Biol Conserv 37:73–86CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  23. Van Wieren SE (1995) The potential role of large herbivores in nature conservation and extensive land use in Europe. Biol J Linn Soc 56(Suppl):11–23CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  24. Vanpoucke S, Bourguignon L, Braet L, Dupont E, Raes D, Hubrecht F (2010) When death is life—Ecology, nature conservation, and forensic entomology. In: Proceedings of the 8th meeting of the European association for forensic entomology (Suppl.), Murcia, p 17Google Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media B.V. 2011

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Departamento de Zoología y Antropología FísicaUniversidad de AlcaláAlcalá de Henares, MadridSpain

Personalised recommendations