What Bug Is That? The guide to Australian insect families.

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With two exceptions this family of 7 genera and over 50 species is confined to Australian and Papuan marsupials. A revision by Keler (1971), based on material collected from wild-caught hosts, recognised 35 species. Since then another 17 species have been described and several others await description. Only one-third of the currently-recognised families of Australasian marsupials are known to be parasitised, including the two largest ones; Dasyuridae (marsupial-mice, native cats, etc.) and Macropodidae (kangaroos). One 'non-marsupial' boopiid is Heterodoxus spiniger , which occurs on domestic dogs in many parts of Australia, Africa, Asia and the Americas, and has been found also on Macropus agilis . It is probable that H . spiniger transferred to dogs, perhaps via the dingo, and was transported around the world on domestic dogs. There are reliable records of H . spiniger from the jackal and coyote. The ancestor of Therodoxus , closely related to Heterodoxus , was described from New Guinea from the cassowary, Casuarius casuarius , which also occurs in Australia. Therodoxus possibly established on these large ground birds from some species of wallabies which live in the same forest habitat (Clay 1971).
One genus of another South American family of Amblycera, the Trimenoponidae, is parasitic on marsupials, both didelphids and caenolestids. This family is not closely related to the Boopiidae and almost certainly had different origins.


Head relatively large; mouth-parts mandibulate. Antennae concealed in grooves, generally capitate, usually 4-segmented, 3rd segment wineglass-shaped; mandibles horizontal; maxillary palps 2-4-segmented; meso- and metathorax usually separate. Tarsi with paired claws; on birds, marsupials, canids. Mesonotum with 2 protuberances, each bearing a spine-like setae; spiracles on apparent abdominal segments 2-7; apparent abdominal terga 1-3 with a fine trichobothrium on each side, or, if these are absent, maxillary palps with less than 4 segments.

  • Paraheterodoxus insignis from Aepyprymnus rufescens (Rufous Bettong), female