Multi-level determinants of parasitic fly infection in forest passerines

PLoS One. 2013 Jul 10;8(7):e67104. doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0067104. Print 2013.


The study of myiasis is important because they may cause problems to the livestock industry, public health, or wildlife conservation. The ecology of parasitic dipterans that cause myiasis is singular, as they actively seek their hosts over relatively long distances. However, studies that address the determinants of myiasis dynamics are very scarce. The genus Philornis include species that may be excellent models to study myiasis ecology, as they exclusively parasitize bird nestlings, which stay in their nests until they are fully fledged, and larvae remain at the point of entry until the parasitic stage is over, thus allowing the collection of sequential individual-level infection data from virtually all the hosts present at a particular area. Here we offer a stratified multi-level analysis of longitudinal data of Philornis torquans parasitism in replicated forest bird communities of central Argentina. Using Generalized Linear Models and Generalized Linear Mixed Models and an information theory approach for model selection, we conducted four groups of analyses, each with a different study unit, the individual, the brood, the community at a given week, and the community at a given year. The response variable was larval abundance per nestling or mean abundance per nestling. At each level, models included the variables of interest of that particular level, and also potential confounders and effect modifiers of higher levels. We found associations of large magnitude at all levels, but only few variables truly governed the dynamics of this parasite. At the individual level, the infection was determined by the species and the age of the host. The main driver of parasite abundance at the microhabitat level was the average height of the forest, and at the community level, the density of hosts and prior rainfall. This multi-level approach contributed to a better understanding of the ecology of myiasis.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Diptera / pathogenicity*
  • Ecosystem
  • Host-Parasite Interactions
  • Parasite Load / statistics & numerical data
  • Parasitic Diseases, Animal / epidemiology
  • Parasitic Diseases, Animal / etiology*
  • Population Density
  • Risk Factors
  • Seasons
  • Sparrows / parasitology*
  • Time Factors
  • Trees

Grants and funding

This study was funded by Wildlife Conservation Society (Wildlife Health Fund,, Morris Animal Foundation (, Grant No. D08ZO-304), and CONICET (, Grant No. PIP11220100100261). The funders had no role in study design, data collection and analysis, decision to publish, or preparation of the manuscript.