Cuckoos are known for being brood parasites, however, the majority of the family Cuculidae (Aves: Cuculiformes) raise their own young. In those brood parasitic cuckoo species, raised by their fosterers, direct contact between a parent and its offspring is unknown. Life cycle and ecology of their ectoparasites therefore remain enigmatic. Until now, only one quill mite species (Acari: Prostigmata: Syringophilidae) parasitising brood parasitic cuckoo, Cuculus canorus L., was known. Therefore, we investigated syringophilid fauna of four other parasitic species of the family Cuculidae: Cuculus solitarius Steph., Cercococcyx montanus Chap., Pachycoccyx audeberti (Schl.), and Scythrops novaehollandiae (Lath.), as well as four non-parasitic species: Crotophaga ani L., C. sulcirostris Swain., Guira guira (Gmel.) and Centropus goliath (Bonap.). We have found out that all studied parasitic species as well as one non-parasitic cuckoo, Centropus goliath, forming one phylogenetic lineage, harbour the same quill mite species, Cuculisyringophilus chirovi (Bochkov & Mironov), but three other non-parasitic cuckoos forming a sister clade are infected by three different syringophilid species: Calamincola lobatus Casto, Crotophagisyringophilus io Skoracki, and Cuculisyringophilus crotophaginus Skoracki. These findings confirm the knowledge on other groups of ectoparasites associated with avian brood parasites that their ectoparasite species richness is substantially lower compared to sister, non-parasitic lineages. However, the question of transmission to new host individuals is raised: how are quill mites, dwelling practically all their lives (except short transmission episode) inside a calamus cavity, able to infect other parasitic cuckoos: if they never meet their biological parents then vertical transmission cannot be possible?
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Vol. 21 • No. 4