© Stuart M Bennett 2003
Spilopsyllus cuniculi
(The Rabbit Flea)

A bit sparse the information on this little beastie, suffice to say that it is found on rabbits, usually around the ears, and is a carrier of myxomatosis.

This species can be distinguished from the cat and dog fleas by the almost vertical position of its genal comb and the rounded ends of the spines, compared with the horizontal position and sharp points found in the latter (see above). This is an eastern species, and is known to bite hunters and hikers. Similar species occur in the western region.

Although both flea sexes feed avidly and repeatedly on blood (a single male exception never feeds), they survive for various periods away from the host. The rabbit flea can live for nine months at temperatures around the freezing point without feeding. Some of the biology is below;

The host spectrum is wild hares, rabbits; rarely canids, felids and it's geographic distribution is worldwide.

Taxonomic classification:
Phylum: Arthropoda
Class: Insecta
Order: Siphonaptera
Genus: Spilopsyllus cuniculi (European rabbit flea)

Adults - females about 1 mm long, dark brown, laterally flattened, wingless, piercing-sucking mouthparts, genal and pronotal combs, angular head. Eggs, Larvae, Pupae - similar to Ctenocephalides spp .

Life cycle (stages): Basically similar to that of Ctenocephalides spp . but intimately linked to the host's corticosteroid level the flea's ovaries mature only after it has fed on a pregnant rabbit or hare. Eggs of the flea are laid only after it has fed on a newborn lagomorph

Site of infestation: Skin, primarily of the ears

Pathogenesis/clinical signs: Because they congregate on the ears, these fleas may cause much irritation and tissue damage. Transmit Trypanosoma nabiasi (nonpathogenic) and myxomatosis virus. Could be introduced into a laboratory animal colony on specimens obtained from the wild, but probably would not persist in the laboratory because of its reproductive requirements

Thanks are due to Walter Ebeling for some of these notes
University of California
Division of Agricultural Sciences ©1975, 1996, 2002

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