Systematics of Chewing Lice:

World Checklist and Monographic
Revision of the Goniodidae

Principal Investigators:
Dale H. Clayton, University of Utah
Kevin P. Johnson, Illinois Natural History Survey

This project is sponsored by the National Science Foundation and the University of Utah

Lice (Insecta: Phthiraptera) are wingless, obligate ectoparasites of birds and mammals.   Because they pass their entire life cycle on the body of the host, lice are unusually tractable organisms for research in population biology.  Their close association with the host can also yield pronounced host specificity and cospeciation.  Indeed, lice are one of the most common model systems used in the development of analytical methods for assessing patterns and rates of cospeciation.  Their tractability in ecological time, combined with a history of cospeciation, also makes them one of the best groups for research on ecological factors governing the process of speciation.  Unfortunately, the potential role of lice as models for research is greatly hampered by the poor state of louse systematics.

The problem is unusually severe because the host specificity of many genera of lice has been exaggerated by the circular reasoning common among earlier taxonomists (and a few modern ones), who described new species on the basis of host associations, rather than on the basis of the lice themselves.  This practice has contributed to the need to synonymize over 2000 louse species!  Unfortunately, much of this information is documented only in the files of a handful of retirement age taxonomists, who also possess the critical skills needed to train a new generation of phthirapteran systematists.  The most important goal of our PEET project is to train  new  louse taxonomists.  We are at a critical juncture in the history of louse systematics. Training of new specialists and dissemination of unpublished data require support before it is too late.

Another major goal of our PEET project has been the publication of: The Chewing Lice:  World Checklist and Biological Overview by Roger Price and colleagues.  This 500+ page volume, published in 2003, is the first comprehensive treatment in more than 50 years.  It covers all valid taxa of chewing lice, as well as old and new synonymies.  It provides complete checklists and indices of the hosts of all chewing lice, as well as the chewing lice known from all hosts.  A pictorial key to all genera of chewing lice is also provided, as well as a chapter reviewing the biology of chewing lice.  A comprehensive, web-based version of the data contained in this volume is also currently in preparation.

Celebrating Publication of Price et al.’s Landmark Volume
Clayton lab party with Roger and Arlene Price (September 2003) celebrating earlier publication of the checklist.

Back row (left to right): Sarah Bush, Roger Price, Arlene Price, David Reed, Mimi, Clayton,
Stephen Cameron, Roger Clayton and Kevin Wilding.
Seated at the table (left to right): Tory Wilding, Jael Malenke, Sanghee Yun,
Dukgun Kim, Christopher Harbison and Kevin Ely.

Proud Checklist Papa --Roger Price!

Order Your Copy Today !

"The Chewing Lice:
World Checklist and
Biological Overview"

by R.D. Price, R.A. Hellenthal, R.L. Palma,
K.P. Johnson, and D.H. Clayton

contact Ruth Johnson

c/o Distribution Office
607 E. Peabody Drive
Champaign, IL  61820
(217) 333-6880