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Abundance of chewing lice (Phthiraptera: Amblycera and Ischnocera) increases with the body size of their host woodpeckers and sapsuckers (Aves: Piciformes: Picidae)

  • Terry D. Galloway (a1) and Robert J. Lamb (a1)


Specimens of five species of woodpeckers (Piciformes: Picidae) from Manitoba, Canada, were weighed and examined for chewing lice, 1998–2015: downy woodpecker (Picoides pubescens (Linnaeus), n=49), hairy woodpecker (Picoides villosus (Linnaeus), n=23), pileated woodpecker (Dryocopus pileatus (Linnaeus), n=10), northern flicker (Colaptes auratus (Linnaeus), n=170), and yellow-bellied sapsucker (Sphyrapicus varius (Linnaeus), n=239). The relationship between body mass of each host species and infestation by seven species of lice was analysed: Menacanthus pici (Denny) from all host species, Brueelia straminea (Denny) from Picoides Lacépède species, Penenirmus jungens (Kellogg) from northern flicker, Penenirmus auritus (Scopoli) from the other four hosts, Picicola porisma Dalgleish from northern flicker, Picicola snodgrassi (Kellogg) from Picoides species, and Picicola marginatulus (Harrison) from pileated woodpeckers. Mean abundance of lice increased with the mean mass of their host. Neither the species richness of lice nor the prevalence of lice were related to host body mass. Host body mass explained 98% of the variation in mean intensity of louse infestation among hosts. The positive association of mean intensity and body size was also detected for three genera of lice. Louse intensity also increased with body size for individual birds, more so for some species of lice and hosts than others. Body size matters, but the adaptations that allow higher mean intensity on larger host species remain to be determined.


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