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Siphonaptera (fleas)

Life > Eukaryotes > Opisthokonta > Metazoa (animals) > Bilateria > Ecdysozoa > Panarthropoda > Tritocerebra > Phylum: Arthopoda > Mandibulata > Atelocerata > Panhexapoda > Hexapoda > Insecta (insects) > Dicondyla > Pterygota > Metapterygota > Neoptera > Eumetabola > Holometabola > Panorpida > Antliophora > Mecoptera


A cat flea Ctenocephalides felis waits on the carpet for a passing cat, dog or human.

Fleas are thought to have originated from fly-like ancestors. However, they look nothing like the conventional fly because their bodies have become considerably modified for surviving as parasites on vertebrates. For instance, the flattened body makes them difficult to grip hold of. Their amazing jumping ability enables them to make a fast getaway if they are discovered.

Of the nearly 100 species of flea found in southern Africa, the Cat Flea, Ctenocephalides felis, which bites cats, dogs and humans, is usually the species responsible for causing human discomfort. 

Genetic analysis, supported by morphological information, has provided strong evidence that fleas are closely related to mecopterans in the family Boreidae (snow scorpionflies or snow fleas).


  • Fleas (Siphonaptera). Web site of the Zoological Institute, St Petersburg. Provides information on fleas in general.

  • Flea News. Online newsletter of flea researchers.

Text by Hamish G. Robertson

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