Host associations of highly host-specific chewing lice (Insecta: Phthiraptera) across multiple avian species remains fairly undocumented in the West African country of Benin. Two hundred and seventeen bird specimens collected from multiple localities across Benin and housed at the Texas A&M University Biodiversity Research and Teaching Collections were examined for lice. Lice were identified and genetic data (mitochondrial COI and nuclear EF-1α genes) were obtained and phylogenetically analyzed. In total, we found 15 host associations, 7 of which were new to science. Genetically, most lice from Benin were unique and could represent new species. Based on host associations and unique genetic lineages, we estimate we discovered a minimum of 4 and possibly as many as 8 new chewing louse species. Given the lack of current data on chewing louse species distributions in Benin, this study adds to the knowledge of host associations, geographic distribution, and genetic variability of avian chewing louse species in West Africa.
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Vol. 103 • No. 2