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(invertebrate zoology)
Biting lice, a comparatively small order of wingless insects characterized by five-segmented antennae, distinctly developed mandibles, one or two terminal claws on each leg, and a prothorax developed as a distinct segment.
McGraw-Hill Dictionary of Scientific & Technical Terms, 6E, Copyright © 2003 by The McGraw-Hill Companies, Inc.
The following article is from The Great Soviet Encyclopedia (1979). It might be outdated or ideologically biased.



(bird lice), an order of insects of the group Pterygota. Mallophagans have secondarily reduced wings. The insects, which parasitize birds and, less often, mammals, are small, with a thick body measuring 0.5–11 mm in length. The head is wider than the thorax, and the mesothorax and metathorax of many species are fused. The eyes are reduced, the antennae are short with three to five segments, and the mouth-parts are fitted for chewing. The tarsi have one or two segments and one or two claws. Mallophagans feed on desquamated epithelium and its derivatives (feathers, down, hair) and, less frequently, on blood. The eggs adhere to hairs, down, and feathers; development takes place with almost no metamorphosis. Infestation occurs by contact; sometimes the mallophagans are carried by louse flies or other bloodsuckers. Each species parasitizes a limited number of host species. The insect’s feeding and movement over the host’s skin cause intense itching and weakening of the host.

There are more than 2,500 species of mallophagans, comprising two suborders: Amblycera and Ischnosera. The former have concealed antennae and protruding jaws; they include the chicken head louse, which is harmful to poultry breeding. Three genera of the suborder parasitize marsupials. The Ischnosera, which have threadlike antennae and upper jaws that are directed downward, include the Trinotum luridum and the Tricho-dectidae.

Measures to combat mallophagans include treating infested animals with contact insecticides and cleaning and disinfecting the premises.


The Great Soviet Encyclopedia, 3rd Edition (1970-1979). © 2010 The Gale Group, Inc. All rights reserved.