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


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.

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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).

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Correspondence to Daniel Martín-Vega.

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Martín-Vega, D., Baz, A. Could the ‘vulture restaurants’ be a lifeboat for the recently rediscovered bone-skippers (Diptera: Piophilidae)?. J Insect Conserv 15, 747 (2011).

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  • Thyreophora cynophila
  • Centrophlebomyia furcata
  • Carrion
  • Ecosystem function
  • Vulture restaurants