Host range and distribution of small mammal fleas in South Africa, with a focus on species of medical and veterinary importance

L. van Der Mescht, S. Matthee

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

8 Scopus citations


The host range and distribution of flea species on rodents and insectivores across multiple vegetation types in South Africa were investigated. Habitat suitability for flea species considered as important vectors of disease in humans and domestic animals was modelled. Data originated from fleas that were recovered from small mammals captured at 29 localities during 2009–2013 and published literature searched for flea records. Climate-based predictor variables, widely used in arthropod vector distribution, were selected and habitat suitability modelled for 10 flea vector species. A total of 2469 flea individuals representing 33 species and subspecies were collected from 1185 small mammals. Ten of each of the flea and rodent species are plague vectors and reservoirs, respectively. Multiple novel flea–host associations and locality records were noted. Three vector species were recorded from insectivores. Geographic distributions of flea species ranged from broad, across-biome distributions to narrower distributions within one or two biomes. Habitat suitability models performed excellently for the majority of flea vectors and identified regions of summer and all-year rainfall as representing suitable habitats for most vector species. Current knowledge of vector and disease ecology can benefit from similar sampling approaches that will be important not only for South Africa, but also for the sub-region.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)402-413
Number of pages12
JournalMedical and Veterinary Entomology
Issue number4
StatePublished - 1 Dec 2017
Externally publishedYes


  • Distribution
  • MaxEnt
  • South Africa
  • fleas
  • host records
  • small mammals
  • vector

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Parasitology
  • Ecology, Evolution, Behavior and Systematics
  • General Veterinary
  • Insect Science


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