Vertebrate Ectoparasite Collection



In addition to our vertebrate ectoparasite catalog records, check out our Diptera taxonomy database. You can search for bat fly images and publications as well as current taxonomic names.

Given the obligatory relationship most ectoparasitic arthropods have with their vertebrate hosts, the host's body mostly or completely entails the universe of many parasite taxa. Our ectoparasite specimens are often associated with host voucher specimens in The Field Museum's mammal and bird collections. Because host vertebrates are vouchered with specimens and available for study alongside their parasites, coevolutionary biologists are able to measure the habitat parameters of the parasites and to confirm the host's true identity.

Most significant among the Field Museum's ectoparasite collection are the fly families Streblidae and Nycteribiidae (Diptera); our holdings of "bat flies" are unparalleled and include over 75% of the known world species, including types of 40% of known species. Recent field studies have expanded the collection to about 100,000 specimens. The chewing louse (Phthiraptera: Ischnocera and Amblycera) collection houses an estimated 20% of the described species-level taxa and has particularly important collections from the Neotropics. One of the most important Neotropical Phthiraptera collections housed here are a large series of tinamou (Aves: Tinamiformes) lice which were ruffled off of 1500 bird skins housed in The Field Museum's Bird Division collections. Ongoing research and collecting of chewing lice is expanding this collection. Significant percentages of all described species are present for ticks (Acari: Argasidae and Ixodidae), 50%; sucking lice (Phthiraptera: Anoplura), 30%; fleas (Siphonaptera), 30%, with types of over 250 species (including the R. E. Lewis collection); and parasitic mites from Australian and Neotropical hosts (fractions unknown).