Ralph P. Eckerlin

Natural Sciences Division
Northern Virginia Community College
Annandale, VA 22003



One hundred small mammals were trapped in spruce-fir habitat at high elevations (5050-6011 feet) during October and November 1999 in the Great Smoky Mountains National Park. All localities are in Sevier County, Tennessee. Eight species of fleas, two louse species, and one species of leptinid beetle were collected as ectoparasites on the mammals. Three of the fleas, Atyphloceras bishopi, Ctenophthalmus pseudagyrtes, and Megabothris quirini, and the beetle, Leptinus orientamericanus are new records for the GSMNP. Fleas identified as Corrodopsylla curvata were found in the Traub collection at the Carnegie Museum of Natural History. This species also is a new record for the GSMNP, and for Tennessee. Checklists of the fleas, lice, and leptinid beetles of the GSMNP are provided.

Knowledge of the diversity of ectoparasites in the Great Smoky Mountains National Park (GSMNP) is limited. The first report of fleas (Insecta: Siphonaptera) by Fox (1940) lists 4 species. The most comprehensive collection and report was done by Pfitzer (1950) in his unpublished master's thesis. In the early 1950's, Pfitzer and Robert Traub collected together in the GSMNP. When I examined the Traub flea collection, now at the Carnegie Museum of Natural History, I found additional previously unpublished records of fleas from the Park that date to the earlier collection. Most recently, Durden and Kollar (1997) have pulled together all the literature and have made collections, and they report on the entire flea fauna of Tennessee, in which the GSMNP records may be found. Similarly, Durden et al. (1997) have reviewed the records of lice (Insecta: Anoplura) from Tennessee in which GSMNP records are included.

In October and November 1999, I and my team collected fleas and other ectoparasites from high elevation spruce-fir habitat in the GSMNP. It is believed that these high elevation sites may be refugia for more boreal host mammals and their parasites, some of which are "winter fleas", that is, only present as adults during the cold months of the year, and thus we chose to collect at that time. All of the specimens of fleas, lice, and beetles have not been processed and identified, therefore, this is a preliminary report. A more complete report will follow.


Three types of live traps - Sherman, Havahart, and Tomahawk, were used, all baited with peanut butter and oatmeal. Traps were set in transects in spruce-fir habitat, usually near likely cover such as stumps and fallen logs, at various elevations on Clingman's Dome in Sevier County, Tennessee. The October collection was solely at 5700 feet elevation at Collins Gap. The November collection included 3 sites at 5050 feet at Indian Gap, 5700 feet at Collins Gap, and above the parking lot at 6011 feet on Clingman's Dome. The small mammals were anesthetized using chloroform, were brushed over a white enamel pan using a stiff bristle brush, and then were released where caught. Five squirrels found dead on the road were also brushed for parasites, and their bodies were left in the woods adjacent to the roadway on which they were found. Ectoparasites were immediately preserved in 70% ETOH, and later were decolorized in 10% KOH, dehydrated in ethanol, cleared in xylene, and mounted to slides in Canada balsam. The fleas can be identified using the key of Benton (1982); the lice were identified by using Kim et al (1986); leptinids using Peck (1982). All specimens will be deposited in the collections of the GSMNP when sufficiently dry and labeled except that if new taxa are discovered, the type material will be deposited into the U.S. National Museum collection.


A total of 103 small mammals was collected: 64 in October, and 39 in November. Five species of small mammals representative of boreal type spruce-fir habitat were trapped, and 5 squirrels were found dead on the road, and these are listed in Table I along with the ectoparasites obtained. In brief, our collection efforts yielded 8 species of fleas, 1 louse, and 1 leptinid beetle species, of which 3 flea species are new records for the GSMNP, as is the beetle. The new flea records are, Atyphloceras bishopi Jordan, 1933, Ctenophthalmus pseudagyrtes Baker,1904, and Megabothris quirini (Rothschild,1905). The latter is also a new state record for Tennessee. The beetle, Leptinus orientamericanus Peck, 1982 is also new to the GSMNP.

When I traveled to Pittsburgh, PA and examined the Traub flea collection in the Carnegie Museum of Natural History, I found 14 specimens representing 7 species from the GSMNP. Two of these were males of Corrodopsylla curvata (Rothschild, 1915), which is a new record for Tennessee and the GSMNP. These were collected from Sorex fumeus on 19 May 1951 from the Chimneys by Robert Traub and Donald Pfitzer.


Prior to this study, 13 species of fleas were known from the GSMNP (Fox, 1940; Pfitzer, 1950; Linzey, 1968; Durden and Kollars, 1997). A checklist of the entire flea, louse and leptinid species recorded for the GSMNP is presented below.

Checklist of the fleas known from the Great Smoky Mountains National Park

  1. Cediopsylla simplex (Baker, 1895)
  2. Hystrichopsylla tahavuana Jordan, 1929
  3. Atyphloceras bishopi Jordan, 1933
  4. Stenoponia americana (Baker, 1899)
  5. Epitedia cavernicola Traub, 1957
  6. Epitedia wenmanni (Rothschild, 1904)
  7. Catallagia borealis Ewing, 1929
  8. Corrodopsylla curvata (Rothschild, 1915)
  9. Doratopsylla blarinae C. Fox, 1914
  10. Ctenophthalmus pseudagyrtes Baker, 1904
  11. Ceratophyllus vison (Baker, 1904)
  12. Megabothris quirini (Rothschild, 1905)
  13. Orchopeas howardi (Baker, 1895)
  14. Orchopeas leucopus (Baker, 1904)
  15. Orchopeas sexdentatus pennsylvanicus (Jordan,1928)
  16. Peromyscopsylla catatina (Jordan, 1928)
  17. Peromyscopsylla hesperomys hesperomys (Baker,1904)

Checklist of the sucking lice (Anoplura) from the GSMNP

  1. Haematopinus suis (L.)
  2. Hoplopleura hesperomydis (Osborn)
  3. Hoplopleura sciuricola Ferris
  4. Solenopotes ferrisi (Fahrenholz)
  5. Neohaematopinus semifasciatus Ferris
  6. Polyplax auricularis Kellogg and Ferris

The present collection of the louse, Polyplax auricularis, is only the second for this species from Tennessee. It had previously been collected by Pfitzer and Traub in 1953 from Walker Prong in the GSMNP from the same host we report it, the deer mouse.

Checklist of the leptinid beetles (Coleoptera:Leptinidae) from the GSMNP

  1. Leptinus orientamericanus Peck, 1982

The leptinid beetle, Leptinus orientamericanus, found on short tailed shrews, is a new record for the GSMNP. The only two previous records for this species were from Roan Mountain, Carter County, Tennessee by Peck (1982) and Eckerlin and Painter (1993).

Certainly, with additional collecting, more species will be added to the list of these insect groups known from the Great Smoky Mountains National Park.


A grant from the Discover Life Foundation supported the travel to Pittsburgh to study specimens in the Carnegie Museum of Natural History and supported the travel and collecting efforts in the GSMNP. Permission to use the residence in Cades Cove was especially appreciated. Keith Langdon, Supervisory Biologist at the GSMNP provided the collecting permit Number GRSM-99-118. Michael Bulmer, Walter Bulmer, and Gerald Meier assisted with the fieldwork.


Benton, A. H. 1983. An illustrated key to the fleas of eastern United States. Marginal Media, Fredonia, NY, 34pp.

Durden, L. A. and T. M. Kollars, Jr. 1997. The fleas (Siphonaptera) of Tennessee. Journal of Vector Ecology 22:13-22

Durden, L. A., T. M. Kollars, Jr., S. Patton, and R. R. Gerhardt. 1997. Sucking lice (Anoplura) of mammals of Tennessee. Journal of Vector Ecology 22:71-76

Fox, I. 1940. Fleas of eastern United States. Iowa State College Press, Ames, IA, 191 pp.

Kim, K. C., H. D. Pratt, and C. J. Stojanovich. 1986. The sucking lice of North America. An illustrated manual for identification. Pennsylvania State University Press, University Park, 241 pp.

Linzey, D. W. 1968. An ecological study of the golden mouse, Ochrotomys nuttalli, in the Great Smoky Mountains National Park. Journal of the Elisha Mitchell Scientific Society 84:320-345

Pfitzer, D. W. 1950. A manual of the fleas of Tennessee. M. S. Thesis. University of Tennessee, Knoxville, 103 pp.

Table I. Ectoparasites collected from small mammals in spruce-fir habitat in the Great Smoky Mountains National Park in October and November 1999.

Blarina brevicauda1109FLEAS
Atyphloceras bishopi2
Catallagia borealis3
Ctenophthalmus pseudagyrtes3
Peromyscopsylla catatina1
Epitedia wenmanni1
Leptinus orientamericanus7
Sorex dispar40-----
Clethrionomys gapperi5722FLEAS
A. bishopi6
C. borealis21
C. pseudagyrtes2
Epitedia wenmanni3
Megabothris quirini4
Peromyscopsylla catatina1
P. h. hesperomys1
Peromyscus maniculatus2712FLEAS
C. borealis1
C. pseudagyrtes2
E. wenmanni8
Orchopeas leucopus6
P. h. hesperomys13
Hoplopleura hesperomydis1
Polyplax auricularis4
Tamiasciurus hudsonicus10

Additionally, 1 T. hudsonicus with 1 C. borealis and 4 Sciurus carolinensis with 7 Orchopeas howardi were found dead on the road and examined for parasites.