Date of Graduation

12-2016

Document Type

Thesis

Degree Name

Master of Science in Entomology (MS)

Degree Level

Graduate

Department

Entomology

Advisor

Ashley P. Dowling

Committee Member

Robert N. Wiedenmann

Second Committee Member

Kimberly G. Smith

Abstract

Avian nasal mites are obligate endoparasites that spend their entire life in the respiratory system of birds. In North America, bird nasal mites are represented by different unrelated families in three different orders of mites: Rhinonyssidae (Mesostigmata), Ereynetidae (Prostigmata), and the Cytoditidae and Turbinoptidae (Astigmata). The most-diverse and most-abundant family of nasal mites is the Rhinonyssidae, in which mite species may have different levels of host specificity from host orders to families or even species level. Nasal mites in North America have been surveyed in different locations, such as studies ranging from the Gulf Coast of the US to Canada. From those surveys, the reported prevalence of nasal mites infesting bird hosts varied from approximately 25-45% of species that were infested.

In this study, I examined birds from three states in the US (Arkansas, Illinois and Texas) for nasal mites. I found levels of mite prevalence that were similar to results reported from other previous studies, and I added 21 new North American host records. I also studied host specificity within the bird families Parulidae and Emberizidae. I examined 149 birds from those two bird families, and 38 % of the species had nasal mites. These two host families were commonly infested by two Ptilonyssus nasal mites (P. sairae and P. japuibensis), which are part of a group of morphologically similar mites called the “sairae” complex. This complex suggest that all these related mite species could actually be a single mite species with a broad host range, or could be a related group of species, each of which is highly of specific.

Additionally, I surveyed nasal mites collected from the brood parasite, brown-headed cowbird (Molothrus ater), in specimens from Texas and Arkansas. For this survey, 126 individuals were analyzed, and 84 (66.6 %) were found to be infested with nasal mites, which included new host records for the cowbirds. I addressed the question of whether cowbirds acquire nasal mites when the host parent is feeding its young, or whether mites are transferred during social interaction of related birds that are commonly found in large, multi-species flocks.

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