ABSTRACT Dispersal influences the evolution and adaptation of organisms, but it can be difficult to detect. Host-specific parasites provide information about the dispersal of their hosts and may be valuable for examining host dispersal that does not result in gene flow or that has low signals of gene flow. We examined the population connectivity of the buffy flower bat, Erophylla sezekorni (Chiroptera: Phyllostomidae), and its associated obligate ectoparasite, Trichobius frequens (Diptera: Streblidae), across a narrow oceanic channel in The Bahamas that has previously been implicated as a barrier to dispersal in bats. Due to the horizontal transmission of T. frequens , we were able to test the hypothesis that bats are dispersing across this channel, but this dispersal does not result in gene flow, occurs rarely, or started occurring recently. We developed novel microsatellite markers for the family Streblidae in combination with previously developed markers for bats to genotype individuals from 4 islands in The Bahamas. We provide evidence for a single population of the host, E. sezekorni , but 2 populations of its bat flies, potentially indicating a recent reduction of gene flow in E. sezekorni , rare dispersal, or infrequent transportation of bat flies with their hosts. Despite high population differentiation in bat flies indicated by microsatellites, mitochondrial DNA shows no polymorphism, suggesting that bacterial reproductive parasites may be contributing to mitochondrial DNA sweeps. Parasites, including bat flies, provide independent information about their hosts and can be used to test hypotheses of host dispersal that may be difficult to assess using host genetics alone.
We studied the deposition of pupae of the winged bat fly Trichobius sp. (caecus group; Diptera), an ectoparasite of Natalus stramineus (Chiroptera, Natalidae), in a natural cave in Tamaulipas, Mexico. For the first time, we show a strong spatial segregation of populations of a streblid bat fly at different stages of development. Using molecular techniques we were able to match developmental stages to adults. Only 5 pupae were present in the main bat roosts. The overwhelming majority occurred exclusively in the bat flyway passages at a considerable distance from roosting bats. Pupal density corresponded positively with the average flight height of bats in the cave passage. Taken together, observations suggest that these ectoparasites must actively seek out their hosts by moving onto passing or roosting bats. The scarceness of pupae in the main roost may be dictated by environmental constraints for their development. The estimated population of viable pupae far exceeds the population of imagoes on the bats, and predation on adults by spiders is common.
An extensive survey of the ectoparasites infesting bats in Paraguay provides information regarding the taxonomy and host distribution of streblid bat flies at a geographic interface between subtropical and temperate habitats. Five families of bats representing 45 species, including Molossidae (5 genera and 15 species), Natalidae (1 genus and 1 species), Phyllostomidae (11 genera and 15 species), Noctilionidae (1 genus and 2 species), and Vespertilionidae (4 genera and 12 species) were collected from 24 localities across Paraguay and sampled for ectoparasites. In total, 2,467 bat flies were collected, representing 11 genera and 31 nominal species of Streblidae, of which 6 genera and 24 species are new records for Paraguay. No streblids were collected from vespertilionid bats; 23 species infested phyllostomids, 6 species noctilionids, 1 species a natalid, and 1 species molossids. Streblid bat flies were highly specific to certain host groups and individual host species, and their geographic distributions closely followed those of their host bats. Of 31 streblid species surveyed, 27 were monoxenous (i.e., associated with a single host species), and 4 were stenoxenous (i.e., associated with a group of phylogenetically related hosts). The number of streblid species is greatly reduced in the Chaco region west of the Paraguay River, largely because of the lack of phyllostomid host bats.