Previous research has indicated fewer host-specific ectoparasites on woodrats of the eastern United States as compared to western woodrat species. The Allegheny woodrat (Neotoma magister) is a species of conservation concern that is associated with rocky habitats in the Appalachian and Interior Highland regions in the eastern United States. We examined Allegheny woodrat flea parasites in the core of the distribution to further elucidate patterns of ectoparasite host specificity in woodrats of the eastern United States. Of 346 fleas collected from 62 Allegheny woodrats, all but 1 were identified as Orchopeas pennsylvanicus. The single exception was a male Epitedia cavernicola, which represents only the second collection of this species from West Virginia. Unlike the eastern woodrat (Neotoma floridana), which hosts a variety of generalist flea parasites, Allegheny woodrats in our study were host to only 2 flea species, both of which are host specific to woodrats. We suggest that flea host specificity may be related to the specific habitat requirements of this species.
Additional publication details
Fleas (Siphonaptera) of the Allegheny woodrat (Neotoma magister) in West Virginia with comments on host specificity