Bulgarella-2022.pdf (1.16 MB)
Persistence of the invasive bird-parasitic fly Philornis downsi over the host interbreeding period in the Galapagos Islands
journal contributionposted on 2023-10-04, 21:23 authored by Mariana BulgarellaMariana Bulgarella, MP Lincango, PF Lahuatte, JD Oliver, A Cahuana, IE Ramírez, R Sage, AJ Colwitz, DA Freund, JR Miksanek, RD Moon, CE Causton, GE Heimpel
Many parasites of seasonally available hosts must persist through times of the year when hosts are unavailable. In tropical environments, host availability is often linked to rainfall, and adaptations of parasites to dry periods remain understudied. The bird-parasitic fly Philornis downsi has invaded the Galapagos Islands and is causing high mortality of Darwin’s finches and other bird species, and the mechanisms by which it was able to invade the islands are of great interest to conservationists. In the dry lowlands, this fly persists over a seven-month cool season when availability of hosts is very limited. We tested the hypothesis that adult flies could survive from one bird-breeding season until the next by using a pterin-based age-grading method to estimate the age of P. downsi captured during and between bird-breeding seasons. This study showed that significantly older flies were present towards the end of the cool season, with ~ 5% of captured females exhibiting estimated ages greater than seven months. However, younger flies also occurred during the cool season suggesting that some fly reproduction occurs when host availability is low. We discuss the possible ecological mechanisms that could allow for such a mixed strategy.