most wanted: Siphonapterology


April 20, 2014

Siphonapterology, the study of wingless tubes, is the branch of entomology that studies fleas. To control the tropical rat flea (Xenopsylla cheopis), sometimes referred to as the Oriental rat flea, a profile must be completed to predict and profile its characteristics.

By feeding on infected rodents and subsequently on humans, this flea is a primary vector for bubonic plague (Yersinia pestis) and murine typhus (Rickettsia typhi). The favored hosts of these parasites are in the genus Rattus. As belligerent blood feeders, fleas inoculate with saliva. Blood is drawn through an axle-shaped pharynx and a thin esophagus into a bulbous proventriculus, which is the musculated and complex portion of the foregut. It’s positioned behind the crop and in front of the circular muscles that provide an anterior constriction of the mid-gut.

The proventriculus is a crucial mechanism in plague transmission. When pressed together, 250 to 400 reversed, protrusive, internal spine-like setae prevent regurgitation of the bloodmeal, which then enters the mid-gut for digestion. The distal (away from point of attachment) end of the midgut is connected to the hindgut, which features a small, dilated rectum with prominent papillae (small projections) that extract water from feces, allowing dry passage through the anus.

Diseases can be transmitted from one generation to the next through eggs. A female flea mates once but places eggs daily —
as many as 50 a day. pmp

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