Is the Grass Always Greener on the Other Side?: Weak Relationships Between Vegetation Cover and Parasitic Fly Infestations

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Understanding parasite-host ecology is increasingly important for conservation efforts in a changing world. Parasitic nest flies in the genus Philornis (Diptera: Muscidae) have been implicated in the decline of endemic island species and are also known to negatively impact breeding success of the critically endangered Ridgway’s hawk (B. ridgwayi) on the island of Hispaniola. Despite the importance of these effects on hosts, and extensive research of Philornis downsi in the Galápagos, the ecology of most species of philornid nest flies is poorly understood. We examined biotic factors related to Philornis pici infestations of nestling Ridgway’s hawks in the Dominican Republic, where both fly and hawk are native. We found grass-cover was negatively associated with P. pici infestations, while coverage and height of other vegetation classes (tree, shrub, herbaceous, and bare ground) had no association, which is interesting considering recent landscape-level changes to Ridgway’s hawk habitat. Anthropogenic activities in Los Haitises National Park, the last strong-hold of Ridgway’s hawk, have shifted the landscape from primary forest to a fragmented secondary forest with smallholder or subsistence farms and grassy patches. New information on the ecology of nest flies in their native habitat can inform conservation efforts and allow us to make recommendations for future research.


Erratum in: Parasitology Research (2022 July 27) online. The original version of Table 4 is incorrect, and has been corrected on the original article and is available to view in the erratum publication. See erratum publication for details at