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Insular black files (Diptera: Simuliidae) of North America: tests of colonization hypotheses

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Abstract Aim 

To understand factors that facilitate insular colonization by black flies, we tested six hypotheses related to life-history traits, phylogeny, symbiotes, island area, and distance from source areas. Location 

Four northern islands, all within 150 km of the North American mainland, were included in the study: Isle Royale, Magdalen Islands, Prince Edward Island, and Queen Charlotte Islands. Methods 

Immature black flies and their symbiotes were surveyed in streams on the Magdalen Islands, and the results combined with data from similar surveys on Isle Royale, Prince Edward Island, and the Queen Charlotte Islands. Black flies were analysed chromosomally to ensure that all sibling species were revealed. Tests of independence were used to examine the frequency of life-history traits and generic representation of black flies on islands vs. source areas. Results 

A total of 13–20 species was found on each of the islands, but no species was unique to any of the islands. The simuliid faunas of the islands reflected the composition of their source areas in aspects of voltinism (univoltine vs. multivoltine), blood feeding (ornithophily vs. mammalophily), and phylogeny (genus Simulium vs. other genera). Five symbiotic species were found on the most distant island group, the Magdalen Islands, supporting the hypothesis that obligate symbiotes are effectively transported to near-mainland islands. An inverse relationship existed between the number of species per island and distance from the source. The Queen Charlotte Islands did not conform to the species–area relationship. Main conclusions 

The lack of precinctive insular species and an absence of life-history and phylogenetic characteristics related to the presence of black flies on these islands argue for gene flow and dispersal capabilities of black flies over open waters, possibly aided by winds. However, the high frequency of precinctive species on islands 500 km or more from the nearest mainland indicates that at some distance beyond 100 km, open water provides a significant barrier to colonization and gene exchange. An inverse relationship between number of species and distance from the source suggests that as long as suitable habitat is present, distance plays an important role in colonization. Failure of the Queen Charlotte Islands to conform to an area–richness trend suggests that not all resident species have been found.
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Keywords: Aquatic insects; Simuliidae; Simulium; dispersal; island biogeography; islands; precinctive species; symbiotes

Document Type: Research Article

Affiliations: Department of Biology, Prince Edward Island University, Charlottetown, Prince Edward Island, Canada

Publication date: February 1, 2005

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