Sandfly specimen

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What is this?

This is a male sandfly specimen from the entomology collection. Its scientific name is Phlebotomus sergenti. Tiny specimens like this one are kept on microscope slides to preserve them.

Sandfly identification

Insect researcher Shazia Mahamdallie studies sandflies at the Museum. There are hundreds of species of sandlfy so after collecting specimens, the first thing Shazia needs to do is identify them. 

Shazia dissects the fly into two parts, the head separate from the thorax and abdomen. She then mounts them on to slides, which allows her to easily locate important taxonomic characters using a compound microscope (at up to 400x magnification). Once all of the identifying features have been examined Shazia can determine the species of the specimen. 

Storing sandfly specimens

After a specimen has been identified, the slide is covered with a cover slip and sealed. Shazia labels the slide with the species name, sex, location of capture and a unique Museum accession number. She then stores them in the Museum's collections.

Sandflies and the spread of disease

The females of about 20 species of sandfly transmit parasites that cause leishmaniasis, a disease that affects animals and humans.

Shazia and her colleagues are working in southern Europe to trap sandflies and discover which habitats disease-carrying species prefer. Some prefer to shelter near houses, while others prefer woodland or high altitudes.

Watch a video of Shazia as she reveals how DNA techniques are helping us understand the spread of leishmaniasis. 

Follow the Curator of Diptera's blog

Erica McAlister, Curator of Diptera, and her colleagues on fieldwork

What happens behind the scenes in the Museum's Life Sciences Department? Curator Erica McAlister has about 30,000 species of fly to look after, and fieldwork trips at home and abroad. Her life is never dull!

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