Spilopsyllus cuniculi


Also known as: Rabbit Flea — European Rabbit Flea

Spilopsyllus cuniculi
Class Insecta
Order Siphonaptera
Family Pulcidae
Species Spilopsyllus cuniculi

Hosts

Rabit, hare, dog and cat.

Identification

S. cuniculi are of the order Siphonaptera. They have both pronotal and genal ctenidia; the later of which have four to six oblique spines. Adults are dark brown. The females are around 1mm, with the males being slightly smaller.

See general flea structure.

Life Cycle

This parasite occurs on the ears of the host. These eggs moult into larvae. The larvae take around 30 days to mature. S. cuniculi becomes an increasing problem during the breeding season.

Adults spend most of their time off the host, taking only occasional blood feeds.

See general flea life cycle.

European Rabbit Flea (S. cuniculi)

The European rabbit flea occurs on rabbit ears. It is more sedentary than most other species of flea and remains for long periods with its mouthparts embedded in the host. Reproduction is under the control of hormones in the blood of the mammalian host. Following mating, the adult female rabbit ovulates and, about 10 days before parturition, the levels of oestrogens and corticosteroids in the blood increase. These hormones stimulate development of the eggs of the female flea. When the young rabbits are born, the fleas move down the face and onto the young rabbits on which they feed, mate and lay their eggs. Copulation of S. cuniculi only takes place in the presence of young (1-10 days old) rabbits. An airborne kairomone (a substance released by one species that benefits members of another, e.g. parasites, by being a signal or attractant to them) emanating from the new-born rabbits and their urine boosts copulation and reproduction. The hormones of the rabbit also cause adult fleas to increase the rate of defecation by about 5 times. This provides a greater source of food for the newly hatched larvae. Adult female fleas on bucks and non pregnant does are more mobile and will move to pregnant does if able.

The rabbit flea is the main vector of myxomatosis in rabbits. It may commonly be found near the edges of the ear of dogs and cats which frequent rabbit habitats.


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