An ecological investigation of the insects associated with exposed carcasses in the Northern Kruger National Park : a study of populations and communities.
Braack, Lawrence Edward Oliver.
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Extensive seasonal collections along with absolute counts of all the arthropods attracted to medium- and large mammal carcasses resulted in the most complete record of carrion-fauna in Africa to date. The abundance of these species and their seasonal, successional, and diel patterns of carcass-attendance are discussed. More than 98% of species were insects and their presence at the carcass habitat could be classified as obligate, opportunistic, or incidental. A recognisable community of carrion-associated arthropods consistently attracted to the carcass habitat is described, comprising sarcophages, coprophages, keratophages, detritivores, predators and parasites. The interactions and functional ecology of these arthropods is described. The blow-flies Chrysomyia albiceps (Wd.) and C. marginalis (Wd.) were found to be pivotal or key species due to the impact of their larvae on carcass decomposition and their influence on other members of the community. In view of the importance of these blow-flies, their abundance, and the potential role of the adults as dispersal agents of disease organisms, studies were performed to clarify the population dynamics of the two species. The biology and ecology of the immature stages is discussed, including such aspects as the availability of mammal carcasses for oviposition and larval development, and mortality of larvae in the digestive tracts of vultures. By feeding a radioactive isotope of phosphorous (p) to a reared population of adult flies, the dispersal and flight ranges, habitat preferences and population densities of both blow-fly species were studied. The seasonal abundance of C albiceps, C. marginalis, and Lucilia spp. was monitored by monthly trapping at three sites in the study area. Further studies using radioactively-marked blood in a carcass under natural conditions revealed that the distribution of flyspecks deposited by blow-flies is largely dependent upon vegetational structure in the immediate vicinity of the carcass, and the majority of such droplets occurred near the carcass between one and three metres above ground. A distinction in fly-specks was made between vomit droplets, faecal droplets, and the newly tenned discard droplets. The feeding behaviour of C. albiceps and C. marginalis is discussed with reference to the transmission of anthrax in the northern K.N.P.