A biogeography of the human flea, Pulex irritans L. (Siphonaptera: Pulicidae)

P.C. Buckland, J.P. Sadler

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The human flea has been recovered from archaeological sediments in Viking York (England), Dublin (Ireland) and abandoned farm sites in Norse Greenland. In contrast with the other human ectoparasites, however, the origins of the flea appear to be Central to South American, where several congeners are known. The probable routes by which the species reached Western Europe are discussed and resolved in favour of a Beringian and Asiatic one, at any time during the Postglacial. Although this flea is presently relatively promiscuous, initial evolution is likely to have involved a single host, which should be South American in origin and eventually closely associated with man; the guinea pig Cavia porcellus or peccary (Tayassuidae) are suggested. The model, with core area in South America and subsequent spread northwards, has yet to be tested by the examination of suitable deposits in the Americas.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)115-120
JournalJournal of Biogeography
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - 1989


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