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Fleas and bites in armadillo’s bones.

PUBLISHED June 23, 2023 (DOI: https://doi.org/10.54985/peeref.2306p6599282)



Alan Boyde1 , David Mills1 , Agustín-Manuel Abba2 , María-Cecilia Ezquiaga2
  1. Queen Mary University of London
  2. Centro de Estudios Parasitológicos y de Vectores

Conference / event

3rd International Workshop on Insect Bio-Inspired Technologies, November 2022 (Edinburgh, United Kingdom)

Poster summary

Females of the flea Tunga perforans penetrate the epidermis over an armadillo’s carapace, are fertilised by males, when their abdomen swells enormously to form a ~3mm diameter discoid ‘neosome’ which perforates bone and forms a cavity. We used 3D Back-Scattered Electron mode Scanning Electron Microscopy (BSE-SEM) and X-ray MicroTomography (XMT, μCT).to examine bony lesions in the greater hairy armadillo (Chaetophractus villosus) and southern three-banded armadillo (Tolypeutes matacus). Lesions involved both sutures between adjacent bones and their central regions. The cavities show resorption pit complexes typical of those made by osteoclasts. They show numerous extra blood vessel canals. They eventually repair by infilling with new bone. We conclude that the Tunga perforans neosome creates a local host inflammatory response which causes the bone resorption, creating the space in which it can grow. Fleas are known to inject anticoagulant(s) and these can cause local osteoporosis.


Bone, Osteoporosis, Osteoarthritis, Trace fossil, Tunga perforans, Osteoderm

Research areas

Anatomy and Physiology, Biological Sciences, Medical Imaging, Zoology, Veterinary and Animal Sciences


  1. Terkawi, M.A., Matsumae, G., Shimizu, T. et al. (2022). Interplay between inflammation and pathological bone resorption: insights into recent mechanisms and pathways in related diseases for future perspectives. International Journal of Molecular Sciences 23, 1786. https://doi.org/10.3390/ijms23031786.
  2. Ezquiaga, M.C. (2013). Estudios parasitológicos en Dasypodidae (Mammalia, Xenarthra) de Argentina: El valor de la diversidad en la interpretación de las asociaciones parásito-hospedador-ambiente. Doctoral thesis. Universidad Nacional de La Plata. 2013. http://hdl.handle.net/10915/26116.


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Additional information

Competing interests
No competing interests were disclosed.
Data availability statement
The datasets generated during and / or analyzed during the current study are available from the corresponding author on reasonable request.
Creative Commons license
Copyright © 2023 Boyde et al. This is an open access work distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License, which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited.
Boyde, A., Mills, D., Abba, A., Ezquiaga, M. Fleas and bites in armadillo’s bones. [not peer reviewed]. Peeref 2023 (poster).
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