Bat flies (Diptera: Nycteribiinae) are highly specialized bloodsucking bat ectoparasites. Some of the ectoparasitic bat flies are themselves parasitized with an ectoparasitic fungus of the genus Arthrorhynchus (Laboulbeniales). Ascospores of the fungus attach to the cuticle of a bat fly and develop a haustorium that penetrates the host cuticle. This interaction defines the fungus as a hyperparasite. Both the fly and the fungus are obligate parasites and this peculiar case of hyperparasitism has remained largely unstudied. We studied the prevalence of Laboulbeniales, genus Arthrorhynchus, in natural populations of bat flies infesting the bat species Miniopterus schreibersii, Myotis bechsteinii, My. blythii, My. daubentonii, My. escalerai and My. myotis in Portuguese caves. Laboulbeniales were found infecting 10 of the 428 screened bat flies (2.3%) in natural populations, with fewer infections in winter. Images obtained with transmission electron microscopy show the fungal haustorium within the bat fly host tissue, from where it extracts nutrition.
Reference: Jensen K.M., Rodrigues, L., Pape T., Garm, A., Santamaria S. & Reboleira A.S.P.S. (2019). Hyperparasitism in caves: bats, bat flies and ectoparasitic fungus interaction. Journal of Invertebrate Pathology, 166: 107206. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.jip.2019.107206