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Three Sand Flies Actually Represent New Species, Researchers Say

Dec 07, 2015 12:34 PM EST

Sand flies are those pesky, blood-sucking beach dwellers you definitely don't want to bathe in the sun next to. That's because they can carry a variety of diseases transmittable through their bites -- which leave a itchy and bumpy rash regardless. 

In a recent study, a Brazilian team of researchers identified three previously misclassified species using three males and three females from the Cantareira State Park in Brazil. Their detailed morphometric and morphological analyses revealed some new insights regarding the taxonomy of a group of sand flies belonging to the genus Psathyromyia, according to a news release

So what did they find? It turns out the sand flies actually represent a new species, which scientists have subsequently dubbed Psathyromyia baratai, in honor of Professor José Maria Soares Barata from the Public Health School at the University of São Paulo for his important contribution to medical entomology. 

While the females of this new species are seemingly identical to those they were mistaken for, the males are easily identifiable based on characteristics such as length and width of head and eyes, along with length and width of wings, for example. (Scroll to read more...) 

The state of São Paulo is home to the greatest number of sand fly species, with its first record capture in 1939, when P. baratai was originally misidentified, researchers noted.

One of the common tropical diseases the bugs are known to transmit is leishmaniasis, which passes through one's bloodstream following a bite from an infected sand fly. The disease can cause a a skin infection, consisting of sores, or it can develop into a more serious infection where those infected experience symptoms ranging from a fever, to enlargement of the liver and spleen, and anemia; however, it can take months or even years for these side affects to emerge.

Their findings were recently published in the Journal of Medical Entomology.

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