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Fleas: Siphonaptera - Chigoe (tunga Penetrans): Species Accounts

Animal Life ResourceInsects and SpidersFleas: Siphonaptera - Physical Characteristics, Habitat, Diet, Behavior And Reproduction, Fleas And People, Chigoe (tunga Penetrans): Species Accounts - GEOGRAPHIC RANGE, CONSERVATION STATUS

CHIGOE (Tunga penetrans): SPECIES ACCOUNTS

Physical characteristics: The chigoe's body is straw-colored or yellowish. Adults measure up to 0.04 inches (1.0 millimeters) long, but females filled with eggs may reach 0.16 inches (4.0 millimeters). The front of the head is sharply pointed. They lack comblike structures or spines on their legs. The top of each abdominal segment has a single row of hairlike structures. The last four pairs of spiracles, or breathing holes, are large. The base of each back leg has a distinct toothlike projection.


Geographic range: This species lives in the southern United States, Central and South America, the West Indies, and tropical Africa.


Habitat: Chigoes are usually found in places where there is human filth.


Diet: Both males and females bite humans occasionally. They prefer the feet, usually infesting tender areas between toes, under the nails, or along the soles. They will also attack other parts of the body. Only females filled with eggs attach themselves permanently to their hosts.

Both male and female chigoes bite humans occasionally. They prefer the feet, usually infesting tender areas between toes, under the nails, or along the soles. (©Eye of Science/Photo Researchers, Inc. Reproduced by permission.)

Behavior and reproduction: Adults will pass through clothing to feed.

After mating the female finds a host and becomes permanently attached. The wound becomes irritated and surrounds the female with swelling tissues. Her body is now filled with eggs. She releases the eggs into the environment where they hatch. The larvae reach the pupal stage in about ten to fourteen days. Under good conditions the adults emerge after about ten to fourteen days.


Chigoes and people: Bites cause extreme irritation. Attached females may form bumps filled with pus on the host's skin. This may lead to infection and the loss of skin and tissue on toes. Extreme cases may result in the removal of toes by a doctor. Embedded females must be removed to help the wound to heal.

Conservation status: This species is not considered endangered or threatened. ∎

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