Ectoparasite host specificity can be influenced by factors such as the degree of host isolation and ectoparasite mobility. Host-site specificity can result from factors such as proximity to mates, competition, and host grooming behaviour. Ectoparasitic bat flies on bats from the Lamanai area of Belize were collected from hosts captured in mist nets to determine host specificity and host-site specificity. Bat grooming behaviour was also recorded and quantified. From 455 bats (25 species in five families), 773 bat flies (32 species in two families) were collected. Of 32 bat fly species, 25 were only found on 1 bat species, 6 were found on 2 species of the same genus, and 1 was found on 2 species of different genera (the latter appearing to be an accidental association). Specificity of the bat flies tended to follow the taxonomy of the bat hosts, not the ecological isolation of the host species, since bat species that often roost in polyspecific groups did not share bat fly species. Mobility of the bat flies was not related to host specificity. Host-site specificity of bat flies occurred for either fur or membrane on the host, and long hind legs and ctenidia appear to be morphological adaptations for living in fur. Bat grooming behaviour was consistent with the assumptions of a simulation model, which suggested that host grooming could be responsible for host-site segregation of bat flies.
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