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An ecological and conservation assessment of the fauna of Bombyliidae (Diptera) occurring in the Mkhuze, Phinda and False Bay reserves, KwaZulu-Natal, South Africa

An ecological and conservation assessment of the fauna of Bombyliidae (Diptera) occurring in the Mkhuze, Phinda and False Bay reserves, KwaZulu-Natal, South Africa

African Invertebrates 47: 185-206

The savanna is an important biome covering a large area of southern Africa; however its invertebrate fauna are very poorly documented. A variety of invertebrate taxa was sampled within three reserves in this biome, all located in the Maputaland centre of endemism in KwaZulu-Natal, South Africa. Bombyliidae (Diptera) were a significant and easily visible element of the fauna sampled. This paper assesses the fauna of this group, by examining habitat associations and comparing the fauna sampled with data from other regions ('Mfongosi', KwaZulu-Natal; Shimba Hills, coastal Kenya); checklists of species from 'Mfongosi' and Shimba Hills are provided. Species richness for the sampling area was estimated using the survey data, and sampling strategy was evaluated by assessing sampling methods and effort. Twenty two species were sampled during the wet season (November to March), of which 6 are new records for KwaZulu-Natal. These are listed, along with relevant distribution and pherrological data, Bombomyia bicolorata (Bezzi, 1924) is newly synonymised with Bombomyia bombiformis (Bezzi, 1924). Adult bombyliid species were most strongly associated with broad-leaf vegetational habitats (19 of 22 species). Some 68% of species occurred in Terminalia sericea woodland, 41% in Acacia nigrescens low open woodland, 32% in Combretum apiculatum mountain low thicket, and fewer species in other vegetation types. Active capture using nets along transects was the most effective method used, sampling all 22 species. Species richness estimates for the study region varied from 27 to 33 species, suggesting that 67-73% of the estimated number of species were sampled. Detailed biological studies are required to determine the factors limiting species to particular habitats, particularly adults feeding on flowers and the discovery of the hosts of larval stages. Most species sampled are widespread with no local endemism, and are therefore not a priority for species-level conservation within the study region. We emphasise their important functional role as pollinators. Many of the species are restricted to the east African coastal vegetation mosaic. Similar systematic sampling of inland localities is urgently required to confirm this biogeographical restriction. Given their widespread distribution patterns, well resolved taxonomy, and ease of sampling, bombyliids may provide an ideal group for studying large-scale biogeographical affinities and patterns across Africa.

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