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      An unexpected advantage of whiteness in horses: the most horsefly-proof horse has a depolarizing white coat

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          Abstract

          White horses frequently suffer from malign skin cancer and visual deficiencies owing to their high sensitivity to the ultraviolet solar radiation. Furthermore, in the wild, white horses suffer a larger predation risk than dark individuals because they can more easily be detected. In spite of their greater vulnerability, white horses have been highly appreciated for centuries owing to their natural rarity. Here, we show that blood-sucking tabanid flies, known to transmit disease agents to mammals, are less attracted to white than dark horses. We also demonstrate that tabanids use reflected polarized light from the coat as a signal to find a host. The attraction of tabanids to mainly black and brown fur coats is explained by positive polarotaxis. As the host's colour determines its attractiveness to tabanids, this parameter has a strong influence on the parasite load of the host. Although we have studied only the tabanid-horse interaction, our results can probably be extrapolated to other host animals of polarotactic tabanids, as the reflection-polarization characteristics of the host's body surface are physically the same, and thus not species-dependent.

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          Most cited references 15

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          The Biology of Blood-Sucking in Insects

           M Lehane (2005)
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            Tabanids as vectors of disease agents.

             L Foil (1989)
            The Tabanidae are considered to be among the major Dipteran pests of man and animals worldwide, but this group is undoubtedly the least studied. There have been at least 137 genera and 4154 species of tabanids described to date. Yet, existing, active research programmes number, at most, 50 in systematics and distribution, 15 in economic entomology, and five in disease transmission. To redress the balance, Lane Foil discusses the entire spectrum of research on the transmission of infections by tabanids, both from the point of view of general factors affecting transmission dynamics, as well as the specific examination of candidate agents, from viruses to filaria.
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              The development of a multipurpose trap (the Nzi) for tsetse and other biting flies.

               S Mihok (2002)
              New trap designs for tsetse (Glossinidae), stable flies (Muscidae: Stomoxyinae), and horse flies (Tabanidae) were tested in Kenya to develop a multipurpose trap for biting flies. Many configurations and colour/fabric combinations were compared to a simplified, blue-black triangular trap to identify features of design and materials that result in equitable catches. New designs were tested against conventional traps, with a focus on Glossina pallidipes Austen and G. longipennis Corti, Stomoxys niger Macquart, and Atylotus agrestis (Wiedemann). A simple design based on minimal blue and black rectangular panels, for attraction and contrast, with a trap body consisting of an innovative configuration of netting, proved best. This 'Nzi' trap (Swahili for fly) caught as many or significantly more tsetse and biting flies than any conventional trap. The Nzi trap represents a major improvement for Stomoxyinae, including the cosmopolitan species S. calcitrans (Linnaeus), with up to eight times the catch for key African Stomoxys spp. relative to the best trap for this group (the Vavoua). Catches of many genera of Tabanidae, including species almost never caught in traps (Philoliche Wiedemann), are excellent, and are similar to those of larger traps designed for this purpose (the Canopy). Improvements in capturing biting flies were achieved without compromising efficiency for the savannah tsetse species G. pallidipes. Catches of fusca tsetse (G. longipennis and G. brevipalpis Newstead) were higher or were the same as catches in good traps for these species (NG2G, Siamese). Altogether, the objective of developing a simple, economical trap with harmonized efficiency was achieved.
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                Author and article information

                Journal
                Proceedings of the Royal Society B: Biological Sciences
                Proc. R. Soc. B
                The Royal Society
                0962-8452
                1471-2954
                February 03 2010
                June 07 2010
                February 03 2010
                June 07 2010
                : 277
                : 1688
                : 1643-1650
                Affiliations
                [1 ]Environmental Optics Laboratory, Department of Biological Physics, Physical Institute, Eötvös University, 1117 Budapest, Pázmány sétány 1, Hungary
                [2 ]Group for Methodology in Biology Teaching, Biological Institute, Eötvös University, 1117 Budapest, Pázmány sétány 1, Hungary
                [3 ]Computer Vision and Robotics Group, University of Girona, Campus de Montilivi, Edifici P4, 17071 Girona, Spain
                [4 ]Faculty of Veterinary Science, Department of Anatomy and Histology, Szent István University, 1078 Budapest, István u. 2, Hungary
                [5 ]Faculty of Veterinary Science, Department of Parasitology and Zoology, Szent István University, 1078 Budapest, István u. 2, Hungary
                [6 ]Department of Animal Ecology, Lund University, Ecology Building, 223 62 Lund, Sweden
                Article
                10.1098/rspb.2009.2202
                2871857
                20129982
                © 2010

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