Guest blog post by Manfredo Alejandro Turcios-Casco
Since its foundation in 2015, the research team “The Big Bat Theory” has filled important information gaps regarding bats and their ectoparasites in Honduras. We started as just bachelor students mist-netting bats in our university (Universidad Nacional Autónoma de Honduras- UNAH) in our free time. Then we studied a lot about their natural history, distribution, and ecology, and, without any financial support, we started to travel the country studying bats.
At that time, we did not know that many of those records, in the future, would be important for Honduras. After saving some money, we travelled to different departments of Honduras such as Francisco Morazán, Valle, Gracias a Dios, Comayagua, and Santa Bárbara. Then we found support from Marcio Martínez to get to know La Mosquitia, and we started studying bats in unexplored regions. Because of this initiative, we collaborated with bat ectoparasite specialist Gustavo Graciolli and bat specialist Richard Laval, which resulted in the publication of our research in the open-access, peer-reviewed journal Check List.
As a result of this project, we were able to register for the first time the Spinturnicidae family in Honduras with the species Periglischrus iheringi and P. ojastii, a new record of Basilia ortizi (Nycteribiidae), Aspidoptera delatorrei, Strebla matsoni (found hosting Artibeus jamaicensis for the first time), and Neotrichobius bisetosus (Streblidae). The latter, previously only known from Venezuela, is the record with the northernmost locality published to date. We managed to increase the number of species of bat ectoparasites in Honduras to 48, which is 33 more than in Paraguay and 65 less than in Peru.
We definitely consider that this still misunderstood group needs more research effort locally and in general. Considering the lack of knowledge, the chances of discovering new species for the region, new records for the country or region, as well as new discoveries about the relationship and interactions with their hosts, are high. The number of bat species registered for Honduras is a predictor of the number of ectoparasite species that may exist. We also consider “La Reserva de la Biosfera del Río Plátano” an important site for the study of ectoparasites of bats. This is the most important area in Honduras for bat research and conservation, not only because of its high biodiversity, but also because it is a poorly studied region.
“We are very motivated to have carried out this study on new records of ectoparasites in bats, since it is the first investigation we do on this taxon, but we are sure that it will not be the last, since we have already begun to collect new data in collaboration with experts on this topic. We are sure that new discoveries still await us in this area, and we are eager to make new contributions and enrich the information on this taxon in Honduras and the world.”Alejandro Orellana, co-author of the publication
Gustavo Graciolli G, Ávila-Palma HD, Ordoñez-Trejo EJ, Soler-Orellana JA, Ordoñez-Mazier DI, Martínez M, LaVal R, Turcios-Casco MA (2021) Additions of host associations and new records of bat ectoparasites of the families Spinturnicidae, Nycteribiidae and Streblidae from Honduras. Check List 17(2): 459–469. https://doi.org/10.15560/17.2.459