host-parasite systems, coevolution, phylogenetic analysis, entomology, ornithology
Cospeciation is an interwoven process that impacts many organisms. It is important to study because no organism lives in a vacuum by itself. All organisms interact with other organisms on a daily basis. Some interactions are fleeting, whereas others may become more and more important as time progresses. This study attempts to discover if the interactions between parasitic chewing lice and their avian hosts are important enough to cause cospeciation. The first chapter of this work includes a literature review covering broad aspects that affect speciation. As this is a rather broad subject, I focused on antagonistic relationships and what I feel are the major factors that impact them: transmission and virulence. I focused especially on the specific interactions of chewing lice and their avian hosts, as they present an interesting system for a cospeciation study. After the basics of cospeciation and the factors the influence it have been laid out, in chapter 1, I use phylogenetic analyses of two genera of chewing lice, Brueelia and Myrsidea from Catharus thrushes to experimentally test whether they have cospeciated. I chose Catharus thrushes because they are common captures at the Shaw Woods Avian Monitoring Project (SWAMP) and I knew that they were often heavily infested with lice. Also there was a published phylogeny of the Catharus thrushes for me to compare to my parasite phylogeny.
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