By Josh Lancette
A new species of sand fly, dubbed Psathyromyia elizabethdorvalae, has been discovered in Brazil and could be a potential vector of leishmaniasis, a disease spread by sand flies that can result in skin sores and damage to internal organs. The new sand fly is described in the Journal of Medical Entomology.
The behavior of species in the genus Psathyromyia is just beginning to be discovered, and some species have been found in urban environments near people. However, P. elizabethdorvalae wasn’t found in an urban environment, but was instead discovered by Brazilian researchers working in the Amazon. The discovery of a new species didn’t come as a surprise to the researchers.
“We expected to find a new species because the state of Acre is part of the Amazon region with high biodiversity, and the sand fly fauna of the investigated area has been understudied,” said Eunice Galati, one of the researchers.
“There are many Brazilian students in post-graduate programs developing their theses related to the bio-ecology of sand flies in areas that have been poorly investigated and therefore have greater chances of containing undescribed species,” said Galati. “These studies are largely associated with endemic areas of leishmaniasis, which is an important public health problem. Furthermore, there are students who are motivated in taxonomic studies.”
The new species is named after Maria Elizabeth Cavalheiros Dorval, a teacher at Federal University of Mato Grosso do Sul in Brazil. The authors named the fly in honor of her because of her contributions to the study of sand flies, leishmaniasis, and other neglected diseases. Two of the authors have worked with her on several projects.
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Josh Lancette is Manager of Publications at the Entomological Society of America.