Psychodidae - Lutzomyia (californica?)
Size: 2.45 mm; 1.89 mm (larva [immature?])
Group Guild Status
Eutroglophile Parasite Rare
This sand fly (or phlebotomine fly; subfamily Phlebotominae) species was a rather unexpected surprise as a resident in a nearctic cave. Adult sand flies are blood-feeding ectoparasites of mammals, including bats (Lampo et al. 2000; Williams 1987), and the larvae breed in a very wide variety of both wet and dry habitats, including forest leaf litter, rodent and other animal burrows, caves, decaying manure, domestic animal shelters, bird nests, termite mounds, and many other ecotopes (Feliciangeli 2004). Sand flies are rather common in caves in the tropics, where they occur in association with bats and other mammals, typically rodents. Many species are important vectors of tropical diseases among vertebrate hosts including bacterial diseases, arboviruses and protozoan parasites (including leishmaniasis) (Carvalho et al. 2011).
We have only two records of this psychodid from the cave; a single adult female sampled near the “big wall” of the Throne Room on November 2, 2006 (Photo 1), and a single larva taken on July 30, 2011 off the molding wood block at the invertebrate station in Granite Dells (Photo 2). We assume the larva and the adult are of the same species. They are apparently rare in the cave, and were not recorded during the initial study.
Species of Lutzomyia are known to occur in caves, where adults obtain blood meals from bats, and the larvae breed in the associated bat guano deposits. The intuitive position of this species in the ecology of the cave would therefore be an association with the resident bat colony. A couple of factors suggest that this is not the case at Kartchner Caverns. First, the large number of bats and relatively significant guano deposit should support numbers of the flies, which would be more evident as both adults and larvae than we have observed. Second, since both the single larva and adult fly were found in areas of the cave where bats do not occur (Granite Dells and the Throne Room, respectively), we assume that the adult flies are more likely associated with a rodent. The adult fly found in the Throne Room is somewhat problematic, since the area is not near a known surface connection.
© 2020 R.B. Pape. All rights reserved.