In an attempt to better understand the taxonomy of a group of sand flies, researchers in Brazil examined specimens in museum collections. After detailed morphometric and morphological analyses of three different flies in the genus Psathyromyia, they found that the specimens were originally misidentified and that they were actually an undescribed species.
The new species, Psathyromyia baratai, is described in the Journal of Medical Entomology. The species name pays homage to Professor José Maria Soares Barata of the Public Health School of the University of São Paulo for his important contribution to medical entomology, mainly through his teaching and research into the Triatominae.
“This species has previously been identified as Pa. shannoni or Pa. abonnenci due to the similarity of their spermathecae and male genitalia,” said Dr. Eunice Galati, a co-author of the paper. “However, during the preparation of the master’s dissertation of my student Priscila Bassan Sábio, who undertook a revision of the species related to Pa. shannoni, it was seen that Pa. baratai differed from both species in the coloring of their thorax and some characteristics of the male genitalia.”
The new species belongs to a species complex called the Shannoni complex. Within this complex, there have been issues with species identification.
“The males in this complex are easily identified, while the females present morphological similarity, which can lead to erroneous identification,” the authors wrote. “Furthermore, the great morphometric and morphological similarity between the species of this complex has led to the synonymity of some species.”
The state of São Paulo has presented the greatest number of records of this species. Its first recorded capture in the São Paulo municipality, in the Santo Amaro neighborhood, occurred in 1939, when it was misidentified as Psathyromyia limai.
The new species has no known relationship with any disease, and because it has been collected only sporadically, hardly anything is known of its ecology. However, some species in the same subfamily are known to bite humans and are vectors of several diseases, such as leishmaniasis and Carrión’s disease.
The researchers provide a full description of the new species and an identification key in their article, “Description of Psathyromyia (Psathyromyia) baratai sp. n. (Diptera: Psychodidae: Phlebotominae) From Cantareira State Park, São Paulo, Brazil.”