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Revista Brasileira de Entomologia

Print version ISSN 0085-5626

Rev. Bras. entomol. vol.56 no.2 São Paulo Apr./June 2012  Epub May 31, 2012 

Sand flies (Diptera, Psychodidae, Phlebotominae) from Central Amazonia and four new records for the Amazonas state, Brazil


Flebotomíneos da Amazônia Central e quatro novos registros para o estado do Amazonas, Brasil



Veracilda R. AlvesI; Rui A. de FreitasII; Francisco L. SantosII; Arley F. J. de OliveiraII; Toby V. BarrettIII; Paloma H. F. ShimabukuroIV

IPrograma de Pós-Graduação em Entomologia, Coordenação de Entomologia, Instituto Nacional de Pesquisas da Amazônia, Caixa Postal 478, 69011-970, Av. André Araújo, 2936, Manaus-AM, Brazil. Fellowship CNPq.
IILaboratório de Leishmanioses, Coordenação de Pesquisas em Ciências da Saúde, Instituto Nacional de Pesquisas da Amazônia, Av. André Araújo, 2936, 69011-970, Manaus-AM, Brazil
IIILaboratório de Triatominae, Phlebotominae e Fauna Nidicola, Coordenação de Pesquisas em Entomologia, Instituto Nacional de Pesquisas da Amazônia, Av. André Araújo, 2936, 69011-970 Manaus-AM, Brazil.
IVLaboratório de Biodiversidade em Saúde, Instituto Leônidas e Maria Deane/Fiocruz. Current address: Laboratório de Leishmanioses, Centro de Pesquisas René Rachou, 30190-002 Belo Horizonte-MG, Brazil.




Sand flies from Central Amazonia and four new records for the Amazonas state, Brazil. A survey was conducted in May and June 2008 to study the fauna of insects in Central Amazonia, Brazil. As part of the survey, we report here that sixty species of phlebotomine were identified, totaling 13,712 specimens from 13 genera. The collection sites were located at the border between the states of Pará and Amazonas, comprising three municipalities from the Amazonas state (Borba, Maués, and Nhamundá). Malaise, CDC and Shannon traps were used to collect the insects. Most of the sand flies were collected by CDC traps (89.5%), while Malaise and Shannon traps collected 7% and 3.5%, respectively. The most abundant genera, representing 97.1% of the total sand flies identified were: Trichopygomyia Barretto, 1962 (47.6%), Psathyromyia Barretto, 1962 (17.9%), Psychodopygus Mangabeira, 1941 (17.5%) and Trichophoromyia Barretto, 1962 (14.3%). The genera with the largest number of species identified were: Psychodopygus (14), Psathyromyia (10), Evandromyia Mangabeira, 1941 (7), Trichophoromyia (5) and Trichopygomyia (5). The most abundant species was Trichopygomyia trichopyga (Floch & Abonnenc, 1945), which represented 29% of the total sand flies identified. Here we also report new records for four species in the Amazonas state: Ps. complexus (Mangabeira, 1941), Ps. llanosmartinsi Fraiha & Ward, 1980, Ty. pinna (Feliciangeli, Ramirez-Pérez & Ramirez, 1989), and Th. readyi (Ryan, 1986). The results of this study provide new, additional information on the distribution of sand flies in the Amazon and increase the number of species in the Amazonas state from 127 to 131.

Keywords: Amazon, inventory; medical entomology; phlebotomine sand flies.


Flebotomíneos da Amazônia Central e quatro novos registros para o estado do Amazonas, Brasil. Um levantamento foi conduzido em maio e junho de 2008 para estudar a fauna de insetos da Amazônia Central, Brasil. Como parte desta pesquisa, foram registradas 60 espécies de um total de 13.712 espécimes pertencentes a 13 gêneros. Os locais de coleta localizaram-se na fronteira dos estados do Pará e do Amazonas, incluindo três municípios do estado do Amazonas (Borba, Maués e Nhamundá). Armadilhas do tipo Malaise, CDC e Shannon foram utilizadas para coletar os insetos. A maioria dos flebotomíneos foi coletada em armadilhas CDC (89,5%), enquanto que as armadilhas Malaise e de Shannon coletaram 7% e 3,5%, respectivamente. Os gêneros mais abundantes, representando 97,1% do total de flebotomíneos identificados foram: Trichopygomyia Barretto, 1962 (47,6%), Psathyromyia Barretto, 1962 (17,9%), Psychodopygus Mangabeira, 1941 (17,5%) e Trichophoromyia Barretto, 1962 (14,3%). Os gêneros com o maior número de espécies identificadas foram Psychodopygus (14), Psathyromyia (10), Evandromyia Mangabeira, 1941 (7), Trichophoromyia (5) e Trichopygomyia (5). A espécie mais abundante foi Trichopygomyia trichopyga (Floch & Abonnenc, 1945) a qual representou 29% do total de flebotomíneos identificados. Também são registradas quatro novas espécies para o estado do Amazonas: Ps. complexus (Mangabeira, 1941), Ps. llanosmartinsi Fraiha & Ward, 1980, Ty. pinna (Feliciangeli, Ramirez-Pérez & Ramirez, 1989), e Th. readyi (Ryan, 1986). Os resultados deste estudo fornecem informações novas e adicionais sobre a distribuição de flebotomíneos da Amazônia e aumenta o número de espécies no estado do Amazonas de 127 para 131.

Palavras-chave: Amazônia, inventário; entomologia médica; flebotomíneos.



Phlebotomine sand flies are small dipteran insects of great importance to public health because they are responsible for transmission of Leishmania species, bacteria and viruses to humans and non-human animals (Rangel & Lainson 2003). In Amazonas state, there are 127 known species of sand flies, representing approximately 56% of the number of species recorded for Brazil (Galati 2003a). The diversity of sand flies in the Amazon may be underestimated because the extent, and duration of flooding in the state prevent access to "terra-firme", locations in which sand flies are most common (Barrett et al. 1996).

In spite of the few studies on dipteran diversity and biogeography, it is expected that the greatest diversity of flies reside in the tropics (Brown 2005; Amorim 2009). The Neotropical region is predicted to hold the majority of dipteran species, a pattern is that also found in other groups such as birds and butterflies (Robbins & Opler 1997), as well as many other groups (Gentry 1988). Still, dipteran insects remain poorly studied in this region.

The Conference of the Parties of the Convention on Biological Diversity last held in 2010 in Nagoya, Japan, made public a protocol to regulate access to genetic resources and it included bioprospecting, associated research and taxonomic studies as a means to implement the protocol (Nagoya Protocol 2011). As previously pointed by Barrett et al. (1996), sand flies can be useful tools for bioprospection, and as indicators of biodiversity, because they are easily collected and transported in ethanol to the laboratory, and their taxonomy is relatively well known with several different identification keys to species level available (Forattini 1973; Ryan 1986; Young & Duncan 1994; Galati 2003b; Shimabukuro et al. 2010). Also, knowledge about the distribution of sand flies can enable inferences about the distribution of other species with known interactions, such as the vertebrate hosts they feed upon and the kinetoplastid parasites they transmit (Cranston 2005; Barrett et al. 1996).

The main objective of this work was to study the sand fly fauna in "terra-firme" areas located in three municipalities of the state of Amazonas. This study was conducted as part of the project "Amazonas: Diversidade de insetos ao longo de suas fronteiras" to map and describe the biodiversity of insects and provide a better understanding of insect species diversity in the region.



Data on the collection sites, rivers, geographical coordinates, types of traps used, and dates of expeditions, are reported in Table I. The collection sites were located on the border between the states of Pará and Amazonas, comprising three municipalities from the state of Amazonas: Borba, Maués, and Nhamundá (Fig. 1). Borba is located east of Manaus, in the Madeira river region. The population is estimated at 34,452 inhabitants, and the total area of the municipality is 44,252 km2 (IBGE 2010). Maués is located in the region of the Middle Amazonas river between the Madeira and Tapajós rivers. The total population of Maués is 51,847 inhabitants, and it has a total area of 39,990 km2 (IBGE 2010), while the main economic activity in the region is guaraná plantations. Nhamundá is located in the lower Amazonas river region; it comprises 18,278 inhabitants and a total area of 14,106 km2 (IBGE 2010). The climate for the three municipalities is Af (Equatorial climate) of the Koeppen classification, and the vegetation in the collection sites is alluvial rain forest highly influenced by the pluvial regime of the Amazon region. The map was produced using SimpleMppr (Shorthouse 2010).



The collections were carried out in May and June 2008. The insects were collected in undisturbed remote primary "terra-firme" forest habitats, which can only be accessed by boat and foot. The collection areas were accessed by river boat, through the Nhamundá and Abacaxis rivers and their tributaries. Three different types of traps were used for the collections: Malaise, Shannon, and CDC light traps. In Borba, collections were carried out for two days with Malaise traps and two nights with CDC traps, these traps were set at three different collection sites: Picada Pirarara, Picada Borba and Paxiuba. In Maués, collections were carried out for four days with Malaise traps and four nights with CDC traps that were set at Picada Pirarara, Pau Rosa National Forest (FLONA Pau Rosa) and Pacamiri. In Nhamundá, collections were carried out for six days with Malaise traps, six nights with CDC traps and one night with white Shannon traps, the traps were set at two collection sites: Igarapé Areia and Cuipiranga/Aburi Lake. Although Malaise traps are not commonly used to capture phlebotomines, it is widely used to collect other dipterans and a variety of other flying insects; it consists of a trap for the interception of flying insects and does not require someone to carry out the collections.

The insects were kept in 70% alcohol. In the laboratory, the insects were processed according to the clarification method described by Young & Duncan (1994), and their identification was performed using the keys by Young & Duncan (1994) and Galati (2003b). A sample consisting of 5% of the specimens was mounted on microscope slides with Canada balm, the remaining sample was kept in alcohol 70% and all will be deposited in the Collections of Invertebrates from the Instituto Nacional de Pesquisas da Amazônia. The classification of the species follows Galati (2003a), and the abbreviation of the generic names Marcondes (2007).



A total of 13,712 sand flies were collected, belonging to 60 species from 13 genera (Tables II-IV). Nine female specimens from the genus Trichophoromyia could not be identified to species level, since some species are morphologically indistinguishable.

The largest number of sand flies was collected at the municipality of Nhamundá (91%): were from Igarapé Areia (39%) and Cuipiranga/Aburi Lake regions (61%) within this municipality. The remaining sand flies collected were from Borba (5.2%) and Maués (3.8%). In the municipality of Borba, 22 species belonging to the subtribes Lutzomyiina and Psychodopygina were recorded (Table II). In Maués, 27 species were recorded belonging to the subtribes Brumptomyiina, Lutzomyiina and Psychodopygina (Table III). Nhamundá recorded the largest number of species (55) belonging to the subtribes Sergentomyiina, Brumptomyiina, Lutzomyiina and Psychodopygina (Table IV).

The most abundant genera were Trichopygomyia Barretto, 1962 (47.6%), Psathyromyia Barretto, 1962 (17.9%), Psychodopygus Mangabeira, 1941 (17.5%) and Trichophoromyia Barretto, 1962 (14.3%). It is interesting to note that 97.1% of all the specimens collected belong to these four genera. Psathyromyia and Psychodopygus recorded both the greatest abundance and species richness, while Trichopygomyia and Trichophoromyia were represented by only 5 species each. The most abundant species were: Trichopygomyia trichopyga (Floch & Abonnenc 1945) (29%), Ty. pinna (Feliciangeli, Ramírez-Pérez & Ramirez, 1989) (18.5%), Trichophoromyia ubiquitalis (Mangabeira, 1942) (11%), Psathyromyia dreisbachi (Causey & Damasceno, 1945) (9.6%), Psychodopygus davisi (Root, 1934) (8.6%) and Psathyromyia aragaoi (Costa-Lima, 1932) (7%). These six species corresponded to 83.7% of the total number of sand flies collected. When we combine the number of specimens for all 27 species with less than 10 individuals each, they only account for 0.9% of the specimens collected. The remaining 15.4% of the specimens were represented by 27 species with between 11 to 305 individuals.

The following genera had the largest number of species collected: Psychodopygus (14), Psathyromyia (10) and Evandromyia Mangabeira, 1941 (7), which accounted for more than half of the total number of identified species. The most abundant species in the genus Psychodopygus were: Ps. davisi (8.6%), Ps. geniculatus (Mangabeira, 1941) (2.2%), and Ps. corossoniensis (Le Pont & Pajot, 1978) (1.8%). In the genus Psathyromyia, the most abundant species were: Pa. dreisbachi (9.6%), and Pa. aragaoi (7%). The genus Evandromyia was represented by only 35 (0.25%) specimens distributed among the seven species.

Approximately 90% of the sand flies were collected in CDC traps, while 7% and 3% were collected in Malaise and Shannon traps, respectively. Only one species was exclusively collected by Shannon trap: Pa. dendrophyla (Mangabeira, 1942); three species were exclusively collected by Malaise traps: Brumptomyia pentacantha (Barretto, 1947), Evandromyia infraspinosa (Mangabeira, 1941) and Pintomyia pacae (Floch & Abonnenc, 1943); and 15 species were exclusively collected by CDC traps: Micropygomyia pilosa (Damasceno & Causey, 1944), Evandromyia williamsi (Damasceno, Causey & Arouck, 1945), Sciopemyia nematoducta (Young & Arias, 1984), Sc. pennyi (Arias & Freitas, 1981), Sc. servulolimai (Damasceno & Causey, 1945), Sc. sordellii (Shannon & Del Ponte,1927), Pressatia triancantha (Mangabeira, 1942), Pr. trispinosa (Mangabeira, 1942), Ty. longispina (Mangabeira, 1942), Ty. rondoniensis (Martins, Falcão & Silva, 1965), Pa. cuzquena (Martins, Llanos & Silva, 1975), Pa. lutziana (Costa-Lima, 1932), Pa. shannoni (Dyar, 1929), Nyssomyia richardwardi (Ready & Fraiha, 1981), Thrichophoromyia ruii (Arias & Young, 1982). The efficiency and/or the difference in the number of specimens collected between the three kinds of traps, and the three locations, could not be tested because different numbers of traps were operated for different numbers of hours in the three localities.

Here we also report new records for four species in the state of Amazonas: Ps. complexus (Mangabeira, 1941) collected in Borba, Ps. llanosmartinsi Fraiha & Ward, 1980 collected in Nhamundá, Ty. pinna (Feliciangeli, Ramirez-Pérez & Ramirez, 1989) collected in both Maués and Nhamundá, and Th. readyi (Ryan, 1986) collected in all three of the studied areas (Borba, Maués, Nhamundá).



The 60 species of sand flies identified during one week of May and June in 2008 represent over 27% of the total number of sand flies species reported for South America, and 38% of what is known for the Brazilian Amazon (Galati 2003a), showing that the Amazon holds a great diversity of sand flies species and more studies in different areas are necessary to provide adequate knowledge on the distribution of sand flies in the Amazon. Our results show a sand fly fauna composition from primary "terra-firme" forest located in three municipalities at the eastern border of Amazonas state that are considered as low risk area for deforestation (Sales et al. 2011).

These results are different when compared to other studies carried out in the state, which describe sand flies from areas showing different degrees of anthropic activities that are characteristic of ACL transmission. Previous works published on the sand fly fauna collected in the state of Amazonas using various strategies reported three genera as the most abundant: Nyssomyia Barretto, 1962, Psychodopygus and Trichophoromyia (Barrett et al. 1996; Castellón et al. 2000; Dias-Lima et al. 2002; Feitosa & Castellón 2006; Silva et al. 2007; Guerra et al. 2006). Two other common genera found by these studies were Psathyromyia (Barrett et al. 1996) and Trichopygomyia (Silva et al. 2007). Unlike these previous studies, our results showed the largest abundance of specimens in the genera Trichopygomyia, Psathyromyia, Psychodopygus and Trichophoromyia, respectively, and this fact is due to one or two highly abundant species in each of these genera (Ty. trichopyga, Ty. pinna, Pa. dreisbachi, Pa. aragaoi, Ps. davisi and Th. ubiquitalis). The low abundance of the genus Nyssomyia (0.21%) differs from the results previously found by the authors mentioned above. The low number of Nyssomyia specimens collected in the present work might be explained by different sampling strategies (Malaise and Shannon traps), and also differences in the environment. It is worth mentioning that Nyssomyia species were only found in Nhamundá, where the biggest collection effort was made. Studies on the vertical stratification of sand flies in Central Amazonia showed that Ny. umbratilis (Ward & Fraiha, 1977) and Ny. anduzei (Rozeboom, 1942) occur at different heights in tree canopies during the night where the sloth (Choloepus didactylus (Linnaeus, 1758) and the anteater (Tamandua tetradactyla (Linnaeus, 1758)), their main hosts, are found (Lainson et al. 1981; Lainson 1983; Ready et al. 1986). However, these sand fly species are found resting at the base of tree trunks during the day and may bite humans if disturbed (Ready et al. 1986; Castellón et al. 1994; Dias-Lima 2002). They are the most abundant species when sampling the base of tree trunks during the day is carried out (Dias-Lima et al. 2002; Guerra et al. 2006). In addition, the sand fly fauna composition might change due to environmental changes caused by human activities (Ready et al. 1986). Azevedo et al. (2002) found different abundances of Psychodopygus (higher in primary forest) and Nyssomyia (higher in anthropic areas) in the municipality of Peixoto Azevedo, Mato Grosso state, Brazil.

The genera Trichopygomyia, Psychodopygus and Trichophoromyia are very diverse in the Amazon, with more species recorded for this region than for any other area in the Neotropical region (Galati 2003a; Castellón 2009).

The genus Trichopygomyia is poorly known, but its species are distributed throughout the Amazon. Arias et al. (1983) published a review on this group and stated that the species belonging to this genus seem to share similar ecological niches, being associated with armadillos and other burrowing animals. Given the epidemiological importance of armadillos as reservoirs of Leishmania braziliensis "sensu lato" (Lainson et al. 1979), the role of this group of sand flies as possible vectors remains to be determined.

The genus Psathyromyia comprises a large taxon with many species occurring in the Amazon. In the Neotropical region, this genus seems to be of little medical and/or veterinary importance, but Pa. shannoni has been implicated in the transmission of vesicular stomatitis virus (VSV), a disease of cattle and sheep in the United States of America (Comer et al. 1991, 1994).

The genus Psychodopygus is considered a genus of medical interest, since it includes species incriminated or suspected of being vectors of American cutaneous leishmaniasis (ACL) agents (Grimaldi et al. 1991). It has more species distributed in the Amazon than in other biotopes in South America. The species Ps. davisi has been described as anthropophilic (Castellón et al. 1994; Luz et al. 2000) and has been one of the most abundant species collected in other studies (Castellón et al. 2000; Dias-Lima et al. 2002; Feitosa & Castellón 2006; Guerra et al. 2006). The species Ps. hirsutus (Mangabeira, 1942), Ps. ayrozai (Barretto & Coutinho, 1940), and Ps. geniculatus (Mangabeira, 1941) also occur in other regions of Brazil, and have been found infected with Leishmania (Rangel et al. 1985). However, it is only in the Amazon that Psychodopygus species are associated with ACL transmission and can be important vectors in both enzootic and zoonotic cycles.

Trichophoromyia ubiquitalis is widely distributed throughout the Amazon, and it has been described as an anthropophilic species, and incriminated as a vector of Leishmania (Viannia) lainsoni Silveira, Shaw, Braga & Ishikawa, 1987 (Silveira et al. 1991; Lainson et al. 1992). Females of most species of Trichophoromyia cannot be distinguished based on morphology and little is known about the bio-ecology of most species in this genus, while their role as potential vectors of ACL agent is unclear.

The importance of faunistic inventories is shown by the present work, in which, during only one week of insect collections, carried out in a primary forest area, four new records of species were found to occur in the Amazonas state. Trichopygomyia pinna has been described from Venezuela, while in Brazil this species has only previously been recorded in Roraima state. Trichophoromyia readyi has only been reported from its type-locality, in Pará state. The species Ps. llanosmartinsi was recorded in Rondônia and Pará states, and Ps. complexus was recorded in Pará, Rondônia, Mato Grosso and Pernambuco states (Galati 2003a; Castellón 2009). The four records for Amazonas state presented here add new information on the distribution of sand flies in the Amazon and increase the number of species in the state of Amazonas from 127 to 131.

Faunistic descriptions and inventories are important tools to plan conservation strategies and, in the case of medically important species, these tools might contribute to the understanding of the epidemiology of vector-borne diseases. In addition, faunistic surveys of Neotropical Diptera can contribute to the establishment of a future basis for comprehensive knowledge of phylogenetic relationships, biogeography, and the ecological roles of these flies (Brown 2005).



We would like to extend our thanks to: the coordinator of the Project "Amazonas: Diversidade de insetos ao longo de suas fronteiras" (PRONEX/CNPq/FAPEAM: Proc. nº. 1437/2007), Dr. José Albertino Rafael, and his team, for providing their captured sand flies; Rosa S. Hutchings and Roger Hutchings for providing the sand flies captured in CDC and Shannon traps. To the Conselho Nacional de Desenvolvimento Científico e Tecnológico (CNPq) for the PhD fellowship to VRA (Proc. nº 143665/2008-1) and Dr. Luke Baton for revising and commenting on draft versions of this manuscript.



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Received 1/9/2011
Accepted 8/5/2012



Editor: Mário Antonio Navarro da Silva

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