Monday, February 20, 2023

Fleas : Relationships with Host

Fleas feed on a wide variety of warm-blooded vertebrates including dogs, cats, rabbits, squirrels, ferrets, rats, mice birds and sometimes humans. Fleas normally specialise in one host species or group of species, but can often feed but not reproduce on other species. Ceratophyllus gallinae affects poultry as well as wild birds. As well as the degree of relatedness of a potential host to the flea's original host, it has been shown that avian fleas that exploit a range of hosts, only parasitise species with low immune responses. In general, host specificity decreases as the size of the host species decreases. Another factor is the opportunities available to the flea to change host species; this is smaller in colonially nesting birds, where the flea may never encounter another species, than it is in solitary nesting birds. A large, long-lived host provides a stable environment that favours host-specific parasites.

Although there are species named dog fleas (Ctenocephalides canis Curtis, 1826) and cat fleas (Ctenocephalides felis), fleas are not always strictly species-specific. A study in Virginia examined 244 fleas from 29 dogs: all were cat fleas. Dog fleas had not been found in Virginia in more than 70 years, and may not even occur in the US, so a flea found on a dog is likely a cat flea (Ctenocephalides felis).

One theory of human hairlessness is that the loss of hair helped humans to reduce their burden of fleas and other ectoparasites.

Read more, here.

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