Phthiraptera is an order of insect ectoparasites on birds and mammals and is divided into four suborders: Anoplura, Rhynchophthirina, Amblycera, and Ischnocera. The Amblycera and Ischnocera are known as chewing lice, and include four families distributed worldwide, comprising about 211 genera and 3900 species, all found exclusively on birds. Although Brazil has the third highest avian diversity of any country in the world (ca. 1800 species), avian chewing lice from Brazilian birds have been little studied and only ~35% of bird species that occur in the country have been investigated for the presence of these parasitic insects. This project aims to fill this knowledge gap by reactivating a line of research focusing mainly on taxonomy and systematics of Phthiraptera, which was once well represented by Brazilian workers but that is now lacking key researchers, not only in Brazil but worldwide. I propose to work in the ectoparasite collection at the Museu de Zoologia, USP, which contains the largest number of avian chewing lice in South America, with the following general objectives: (1) curate the Phthiraptera specimens deposited in the MZUSP collection, (2) catalogue and digitize the data associated with the specimens, (3) photographically document all species deposited in the collection, (4) sort, identify and describe new taxa present in the MZUSP collection, (5) re-describe poorly known species, (6) review the Brazilian species from "mega-diverse" chewing louse genera with currently unresolved taxonomy and systematics, (7) analyze phylogeographic and phylogenetic data for Brazilian species of such "mega-diverse" genera using both morphological and molecular data, (8) field sampling to incorporate new specimens into the MZUSP collection in appropriate conditions for both morphological and molecular studies, (9) initiate a collection of DNA and of specimens for DNA extraction of chewing lice from South America.
News published in Agência FAPESP Newsletter about the scholarship: