Colpocephalum californici

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Colpocephalum californici
Scientific classification edit
Kingdom: Animalia
Phylum: Arthropoda
Class: Insecta
Order: Phthiraptera
Family: Menoponidae
Genus: Colpocephalum
C. californici
Binomial name
Colpocephalum californici
Price & Beer, 1963

Colpocephalum californici, the California condor louse,[1] was a species of chewing louse which parasitized the critically endangered California condor. It became extinct when the remaining California condors were deloused and treated with pesticides during a captive breeding program.

Taxonomic history[edit]

This species was described in 1963 by Roger D. Price and James R. Beer. They based their description on nine lice (four females, five males), all collected from California condors. The holotype was collected from a California condor in the National Zoological Park, and it was deposited in the National Museum of Natural History. The authors wrote in their description: "Since the California condor now is very rare, these nine lice may well represent all that will ever be found."[2]

Price and Beer placed the California condor louse in the megalops-group alongside C. megalops, C. foetens and C. trichosum.[2]



The male had two pairs of spine-like setae on the anterior margin of its head, as well as four to eight mid-dorsal head setae. The temple width was 0.50–0.53 millimetres (0.020–0.021 in) and its prothorax width was 0.34–0.40 millimetres (0.013–0.016 in).[2]


The female had at most four mid-dorsal head setae. Its I and II abdominal segments were only a bit longer than its III segment. The lateral tergocentral setae on segments II and III were not longer than the median setae.[2]


This louse was reportedly not harmful to its hosts.[3]


California condor (Gymnogyps californianus)

In the 1980s, all California condors were brought to the Los Angeles Zoo and the San Diego Zoo's Wild Animal Park for a captive breeding program. Conservationists treated all the condors with a pesticide to kill their lice, and so C. californici is now presumed extinct.[4] This species' extinction is an instance of conservation-induced extinction.[5]

People were expressing concern about the loss of the California condor louse by the 1990s. One 1990 letter to the journal Nature began, "In the attempt to save certain species from extinction, for example the California condor, the black-footed ferret and so on, how much attention is being given to the natural parasites?"[6] Another letter to Nature closed with "There may be conflicts in conservation needs, forcing us to bid farewell to the gorilla louse or the lice of the Californian condor while retaining their hosts. If so, we should do so in the full knowledge of what is being lost."[7] The C. californici extinction is an often-discussed example when emphasizing the importance of parasite conservation both in academic works[8][9][10] and elsewhere.[11][12][13] One 2011 paper in the Annual Review of Entomology called this a "poignant example" of the loss of biodiversity, and noted that the role this species played in its host's ecology was not fully understood.[14] It has also been pointed out that studying the genetics of C. californici could have provided information about the California condor's evolutionary history.[15][16]


  1. ^ Stringer, Andrew Paul; Linklater, Wayne (2014). "Everything in Moderation: Principles of Parasite Control for Wildlife Conservation". BioScience. 64 (10): 932. doi:10.1093/biosci/biu135.
  2. ^ a b c d Price, Roger D.; Beer, James R. (1963). "Species of Colpocephalum (Mallophaga: Menoponidae) Parasitic upon the Falconiformes" (PDF). The Canadian Entomologist. 95 (7): 740. doi:10.4039/Ent95731-7. Archived from the original (PDF) on 2017-11-07. Retrieved 2017-10-31.
  3. ^ LaFee, Scott (November 2, 2006). "Parasites lost: Of lice and men and the value of small, disgusting things". The San Diego Union-Tribune. Archived from the original on October 31, 2017. Retrieved October 31, 2017.
  4. ^ Dunn, Robert R. (2009). "Coextinction: anecdotes, models, and speculation". In Turvey, Samuel T. (ed.). Holocene Extinctions. Oxford: Oxford University Press. p. 170. doi:10.1093/acprof:oso/9780199535095.001.0001. ISBN 978-0-19-953509-5.
  5. ^ Rózsa, Lajos; Vas, Zoltán (2014). "Co-extinct and critically co-endangered species of parasitic lice, and conservation-induced extinction: should lice be reintroduced to their hosts?". Oryx. 49 (1): 107–110. doi:10.1017/S0030605313000628.
  6. ^ Windsor, Donald A. (1990). "Heavenly Hosts". Correspondence. Nature. 348 (6297): 104. doi:10.1038/348104c0.
  7. ^ Stork, Nigel E.; Lyal, Christopher H. C. (1993). "Extinction or 'co-extinction' rates?". Scientific Correspondence. Nature. 366 (6453): 307. doi:10.1038/366307a0.
  8. ^ Koh, Lian Pin; Dunn, Robert R.; Sodhi, Navjot S.; Colwell, Robert K.; Proctor, Heather C.; Smith, Vincent S. (2004). "Species Coextinctions and the Biodiversity Crisis". Science. 305 (5690). Supporting Online Material. 10. doi:10.1126/science.1101101. PMID 15361627. S2CID 30713492.
  9. ^ Pizzi, Romain (2009). "Veterinarians and Taxonomic Chauvinism: The Dilemma of Parasite Conservation". Journal of Exotic Pet Medicine. 18 (4): 280. doi:10.1053/j.jepm.2009.09.005.
  10. ^ Jørgensen, Dolly (2015). "Conservation implications of parasite co-reintroduction". Conservation Biology. 29 (2): 602–4. doi:10.1111/cobi.12421. PMID 25370175.
  11. ^ Kirst, Marian Lyman (May 29, 2012). "The power and plight of the parasite". High Country News. Archived from the original on October 9, 2015.
  12. ^ Yong, Ed (September 29, 2015). "Save the Parasites (Seriously): Why nature's least sympathetic creatures deserve to be saved, and how to make a start". The Atlantic. Archived from the original on September 6, 2017.
  13. ^ Kwak, Mackenzie (February 9, 2017). "No wildlife charity campaigns to save parasites. But they should". The Guardian. Archived from the original on June 20, 2017.
  14. ^ Adler, Peter H.; Tuten, Holly C.; Nelder, Mark P. (2011). "Arthropods of Medicoveterinary Importance in Zoos". Annual Review of Entomology. 56 (1): 123–42. doi:10.1146/annurev-ento-120709-144741. PMID 20731604.
  15. ^ Whiteman, Noah Kerness; Parker, Patricia G. (2005). "Using parasites to infer host population history: a new rationale for parasite conservation". Animal Conservation. 8 (2): 175. CiteSeerX doi:10.1017/S1367943005001915.
  16. ^ [Seed staff] (August 7, 2006). "Why Save What We Love to Kill? The Value of Small Things". Seed. Archived from the original on March 13, 2017.CS1 maint: unfit URL (link)