Diptera Simuliidae: India

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This is an extract from
Protozoa to Mammalia
State of the Art.
Zoological Survey of India, 1991.
By Professor Mohammad Shamim Jairajpuri
Director, Zoological Survey of India
and his team of devoted scientists.
The said book is an enlarged, updated version of
The State of Art Report: Zoology
Edited by Dr. T. N. Ananthakrishnan,
Director, Zoological Survey of India in 1980.

Note: This article is likely to have several spelling mistakes that occurred during scanning. If these errors are reported as messages to the Facebook page, Indpaedia.com your help will be gratefully acknowledged.


Diptera Simuliidae


The Simuliidae or black flies as they are popularly known, belong to the suborder Nematocem of the order Diptera. They constitute, one of the most homogeneous families of the superfamily Culicoidea. The superfamily comprises both the mosquitoes and their relatives (Culicidae, Chaoboridae and Dixidae), and the midges and their relatives (Chironomidae, Ceratopogonidae, Simuliidae, Thaumaleidae, Blephariceridae and Deuterophlebiidae). The Simuliidae are haematophagous like• mosquitoes, but alongside the Ceratopogonidae having similar nature of feeding devices they are likely to be more close to the 'primitive stock than the non-biting members of the Culicoidea. The earliest fossil records of these flies are from Oligocene ambers of the Baltic coast in Gennany.

Earlier workers including Linnaeus (1758), Fabricius (1787) and Meigen (1800, 1803, 1804) described species of the Simuliidae under genera of various families. The type-genus Simulium was erected by Latreille (1802) and was rust recognized by Meigen (1818) as a clearly defined group of Diptera, which was later designated a family, the Simuliidae (as Simuliites), with this single genus by Newman (1834). Roubaud (1906) proposed subgeneric division. Surcouf and Gonzalez-Rincones (1911), Malloch (1914), Enderlein (1921-1937), Tonnoir (1925), Baranov (1926-1938), Dyar and Shannon (1927), Edwards (1931, 1934), Rubtzov (1937~ 1940) and Smart (1945) advanced various suggestions for the classification of the family, resulting in the creation of a large number of genus-group names as respective subfamilies and tribes. Nearly after two decades, there were two different approaches to, the suprageneric classification of the fami1y~ one of Stone (1964), and the other of Rubtzov(1959-1964). Stone divided the world fauna into five tribes: Gymnopaidini, Parasimuliini and ~osimuliini under the subfamily Prosimuliinae, and Cnephini, Simuliini under subfamily Simuliinae. Rubtozv recognised only two sub-families : Gymnopoaidinae and Simuliinae, without any tribes. The most recent classification advocated by Crosskey (1981) and elaborated and elucidated in 1987 is simple and reasonable. He recognized two subfamilies: Parasimuliinae and Simuliinae.

The Simuliinae contain two tribes: Prosimuliini and Simuliini, of which only the tribe Simuliini is represented in the Orient. There m;e two genera in the tribe, but only the type-genus Simulium with eight subgenera viz., Nevermannia Endedein, Monlisimulium Rubtozov, Eusimulium Roubaud, Wilh~lmia' Enderlein, Gomphostilbia Enderlein, Himalayum Lewis, Tetisimulium Rubtzov and Simulium Latreille (nominate) occurs in India.

The most remarkable biological fact about black flies is that the immature stages almost always inhabit the clear flowing water and for this reason they occur abundantly in the trickles, streams, cascades and rivers of hilly regions or meagrely in artificial water-courses like irrigation channels in plateaux and plains.

Black flies are one of the groups of insects of medical and veterinary importance. As blood¬sucking pests, they produce an allergic reaction that may be very serious in man and results in the death of cattle, horses and other domestic animals. They cause annoyance by getting into eyes, ears or nostrils even when they do not bite. As vecto~, they transmit Onchocerciasis, a serious filarial disease in man resulting in blindness, in• parts of tropical Africa and Central Am•erica. They also transmit Leucocytozoonosis of ducks and turkeys and certain viral infections of animals causing serious losses in some parts of the globe. However, there are no such reports in India.

Historical Resume

Several expeditions were conducted mainly in the north-east India shortly before the fust species Simulium indicum was described by Becher in 1885 (vide Needham, 1886; MacGregor, 1886; Woodthorpe, 1889, 1890). In the beginning of the twentieth century, Brunetti (1911) described seven species from certain parts of India that had been included in the 'Fauna of British India' by Brunetti (1912). Senior-White (1922) described three species from south India, one of which was later found by PUrl (1932) to be conspecific' with one described from Sri Lanka" by Brunetti,(1912). In the meanwhile, Brunetti (1917, 1920) recorded three species from Himachal Pradesh. Edwards (1927) described two species.from Kashmir, one of which had been synonymized by Lewis (1973) with indicum Becher. Subsequently, Purl (1932-1933) described.nineteen species, and re-described and recorded some species from various parts ofIndia Lewis (1973), while dealing with the Simuliidae of Pakistan, recorded one species from Himachal Pradesh also. In 1974, he supplemented invaluable information of two species from the north-east India. Datta (1973-1978, 1983-1988) described seventeen species and unknown stages of certain species mainly from the Himalaya, and extended knowledge on the distribution of several species in India. Datta and Pal (1975), and Datta et aL, (1975) described another species and immature stages of certain unnamed species from the Darjiling area.

Field observations on indicum w.ere made by an anonymou$ worker (1950-1960), Jacob (1957), and Perti and Lopez (1962) in Arunachal Pradesh. Datta and Dasgupta (1972-1977, 1984), while studying black flies of the Darjiling area, paid attention to several aspects of behaviour of six species. Simultaneously, Datta and Das (1975) evaluated statistically the incidence of females of these six species in their different internal conditions. Datta et al., (1975, 1976) worked on the ecology of sixteen species of black flies from the Darjiling area. A comprehensive account of the ecology of the only autogenic widespread species aureohirtum Brunetti was given by Datta (1981) based on observations made in the north-east India.

Apart from these works, certain other approaches are also evident on this important group of flies. Das Gupta et al., (1969) and Datta and Dasgupta (1975) recorded the biting activities ofsome species of the Darjiling area. Cytogenetic works onsix species of black flies by Dey and Fumafartosok (1984) in the same area are the first of its kind in India. Besides, experimental observations on certain behavioural expressions with the application of insecticides and repellents in Arunachal Pradesh were made by Bhuyan et al (1974); Saxena et al., ,(1974); Das et al., (1981, 1984) and Kumar el al., (1984).

Estimation of Taxa

Of nearly 1500 species, under 57 subgenera of 24 genera, belonging to 2 tribes and 2 subfamilies in the world fauna, only 52 species under 8 subgenera of Simulium are known from India. There are 184 species under 11 subgenera of Simulium, known from the Orient.

Classified Treatment

The frrst species indicum Becher (18~5) is the only species in the subgenus Himalayum erected by Lewis (1973), who also described the male, pupa and larva for the frrst time. In the following year (1974) he redescribed the female ~nd reviewed the species in detail. The only species aureum Fries (1824) from India belonging to subgenus Eusimulium Roubaud, was recorded by Purl (1933). Simultaneously, he recorded another species pseudequinum S6guy (1921) (= equinum var. medile"aneum Pori, 1925) of subgenus Wilhelmia Enderlein from India. Edwards (1927)'s extant species §tevenioni is the sole example of subgenus Tetisimulium Rubtzov in India. The subgenus Gomphostilbia Enderlein includes 8 specles, viz., metatarsale Brunetti (1911), pattoni Senior¬White (1922), tenuistylum Datta (1973), darjeelingense Datta (1973), bucolicum Datta (1975), litoreum Datta (1975), unum Datta (1975) andfidum Datta (1975). The two species nemorivagum Datta (1973) and ghoomense Datta (1975) described from the eastern Himalaya are assignable to the subgenus M ontisimulium Rubtzov. The subgenus N evermannia Enderlein is known to contain 7 species, viz., rufithorax Brunetti,(1911), aureohirtum Brunetti (1911), senile Brunetti (1911), praelargum Datta (1973), gracile Datta (1973), purii Datta (1973) and dasguptai Datta (1974).

The largest subgenus of the simuliid fauna in India is Simulium (nominate), t"epresenting 31 species as follows: grisescens Brunetti (1911), griseifrons Crunetti (1911), rufibasis Brunetti (1911), striatum Brunetti (1912), gurneyae Senior-White (1922), himalayense Purl (1932), nilgiricum Purl (1932), ramosum Purl (1932), christophersi Purl (1932), nitidithorax Purl (1932), novolineatum Purl (1932), barraudi Purl (1932), digitatum Purl (1932), dentatum Puri (1932), howletti Purl (1932), hirtipannus Purl (1932), lineothorax Puri (1932), palmatum Purl (1932), consimile Purl (1932), pallidrun Purl (1932), gravelyi Purl (1933), palniense Purl (1933), tenuitarsus Purl (1933), nodosum Purl (1933), rashidi Lewis (1~73)~ nigrifacies Datta (1974), biforaminiferum .Datta (1974), singtamense Datta and Pal, 1975, kapuri Datta (1975), adventicium Datta (1985) and asishi Datta (1988).

In addition, Datta (1974) described heretofore unknown larval stages of grisescens Brunetti, rujibasis Brunetti, himalayense Purl, ramosum Purl and dentatum Purl. It may be mentioned that adults and pupal stages of almost all the species are well-known, but knowledge on larval stages of several species is far from satisfactory.

Current Research

The Zoological Survey of India is the only centre in the country where taxonomic and ecological works on the Simuliidae are carried out. At present the faunas of Meghalaya and Tripura states are being' studied. The workers of the Field Laboratory of Research and Development Organization, Ministry of Defence, at Tezpur are engaged in controlling these flies in Arunachal Pradesh.

Expertise India


M. Datta, Zoological Survey of India, 'M' Block, New Alipore, Calcutta -700 053 (West Bengal).


M. H. Colbo, Research Unit onVector Pathology, Memorial University of Newfoundland, St. John's, Newfoundland, Canada Ale 5S7.

S. Cosearon, Dept of Entomology, Ameriean Museum of Natural History, National Research Council Career Investigator, CONICET, Argentina.

R. W. Crosskey, Dept. of Entomology, British Museum (Nat. Hist.), Cromwell Road, London SW7 5BD, U.K.

D. M. Davies Emeritus: C/o Dept of Biology, McMaster University, 1280 Main Street West, Hamilton, Ontario, Canada L8S 4Kl.

H. Ono, Nukabira Biological Institute, Obihiro University, Nukabira, Kamishihoro, HQkkaidoo 80-15, Japan.

B. V Peterson, Systematic Entomology Laboratory, PSI, ARS, USDA, C/o National Museum of Natural History, NHB-168, Washington, D. C. 20560, U.S.A.

J. E. Raastad, Zoological Museum, Sarsgt. 1, Oslo 5, Norway.

I. A. Rubtzov, Zoological Institute, U.S.S.R. Academy of Sciences, Leningrad, U.S .S.R. H. Takahasi, 40-11, Hayamiya-l, Nerima-ku, Tokyo 179, Japan. H. Takaoka, Division of Medical Zoology, Medical College of Oita,• Hazama, Oita 879-56, Japan.

Selected Rererences

Datta, M. 1983. A review of the Simuliidae (Diptera) from the Oriental Region. Orient. Ins., 17 : 215-268.

Purl, I. M. 1932-1933. Studies on Indian Simuliidae I-IX. Indian 1. med. Res., 19 : 883-913, 1125-1143; 20 : 505-532, 803-817; 21 : 1-16.

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