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Echinophthiriidae

Echinophthiriidae (order Phthiraptera, suborder Anoplura) Family of sucking lice which are parasitic on seals and otters. Species differ from other Anoplura in the lack of eyes or ocular points; the lack of abdominal sclerites; the thick covering of setae; and the long, tubular, spiracular chamber (see SPIRACLE). They are the only lice to parasitize marine mammals, and some species are known to obtain oxygen from sea water by cutaneous respiration. This is possible because the exoskeleton is very thin, and such lice are thickly covered in protective, flattened scales. Some species of seal lice live in the nasal passages of the host, while others burrow a short distance into the skin. Many seals come to land only once a year, to breed; the life cycle of the lice is synchronized to this, so they breed at the same time as the seals. It is then that lice are able to move from seal to seal, and to colonize young seals. There are five genera, with 12 species.

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