Overview

Brief Summary

The housefly, Musca domestica, is the most common of domestic flies. Originally from central Asia, they are now one of the most widely distributed insects, found associated with humans all over the world. Houseflies feed and breed in animal feces and garbage, and also commonly visit human foods. Their legless maggots feed directly on the material in which the eggs were laid. Adult flies have sponge-sucking mouthparts that allow them to eat only liquid foods; they eject saliva to break down solid foods. Although they do not bite, this species is a problematic pest as a vector for more than 100 serious pathogens (viruses, bacteria, fungi, protozoa, and nematodes), including those causing typhoid, cholera, salmonellosis, dysentery, tuberculosis, anthrax, and parasitic worms, carried to human food on the fly’s body parts or in its regurgitations or defecations. Control of houseflies especially in poor countries with inadequate sewage facilities and sanitation is an important public health concern. Houseflies breed readily, a female can lay up to 500 eggs, and in tropical areas this species undergoes up to 20 generations/year. Two other fly species are similar and often confused with the housefly: Fannia canicularis, the lesser housefly and the stable fly, Stomoxys calcitrans. (Sanchez-Arroyo and Capinera 2008; Wikipedia 2011)

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The housefly Musca domestica, is the most common of domestic flies. Originally from central Asia, they are now one of the most widely distributed insects, found associated with humans all over the world. Houseflies feed and breed in animal feces and garbage, and also commonly visit human foods. Their legless maggots feed directly on the material in which the eggs were laid. Adult flies have sponge-sucking mouthparts that allow them to eat only liquid foods; they eject saliva to break down solid foods. Although they do not bite, this species is a problematic pest as a vector for more than 100 serious pathogens (viruses, bacteria, fungi, protozoa, and nematodes), including those causing typhoid, cholera, salmonellosis, dysentery, tuberculosis, anthrax, and parasitic worms, carried to human food on the fly’s body parts or in its regurgitations or defecations. Control of houseflies especially in poor countries with inadequate sewage facilities and sanitation is an important public health concern. Houseflies breed readily, a female can lay up to 500 eggs, and in tropical areas this species undergoes up to 20 generations/year. Two other fly species are similar and often confused with the housefly: Fannia canicularis, the lesser housefly and the stable fly, Stomoxys calcitrans. (Sanchez-Arroyo and Capinera 2008; Wikipedia 2011)

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Biology

House flies contaminate food, and in developing countries are responsible for millions of infant deaths per year as a result of dehydration caused by diarrhoea (5). House flies undergo 'complete metamorphosis'; the larvae (maggots) progress through three stages known as 'instars' before a pupal stage develops in which complex changes take place as the body of the maggot re-organises into the adult fly (4). Adults feed on rotting plant and animal matter and sugary liquids. They repeatedly salivate on food, ingest it and regurgitate it in order to pre-digest the food (4).
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Description

The house fly is, perhaps, the most common and widespread animal in the world (3). It is a serious pest, which spreads many disease-causing pathogens including Salmonella, anthrax and polio (4). It is greyish in colour with four dark stripes along the back (4). Like all flies it has one pair of membranous 'true' wings; the second pair of wings are modified into drumstick-like appendages known as 'halteres', which are used in balance. The sponge-like mouthparts are adapted for feeding on liquids, and the reddish compound eyes are large (5).
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Distribution

National Distribution

Canada

Origin: Native

Regularity: Regularly occurring

Currently: Present

Confidence: Confident

Type of Residency: Year-round

United States

Origin: Native

Regularity: Regularly occurring

Currently: Present

Confidence: Confident

Type of Residency: Year-round

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Range

This species is ubiquitous throughout Britain and is found in many parts of the world (3).
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Ecology

Habitat

Occurs in a wide range of habitats, and is often associated with human activities (1); tends to breed in manure and decomposing material (3).
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Associations

Flowering Plants Visited by Musca domestica in Illinois

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Animal / dung associate
larva of Musca domestica inhabits dung of Mammalia

Foodplant / debris feeder
larva of Musca domestica feeds on decaying debris of Magnoliopsida

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Known predators

Musca domestica (M. domestica larvae) is prey of:
Sinea complexa
Proctacanthella leucopogon
Silpha truncata
Necrophorus marginatus
Conomyrma bicolor
Pheidole
Novomessor cockerelli
Crematogaster clara
Iridomyrmex pruinosum
Saprinus discoidalis
Syspira longipes
Psilochorus utahensis
Creophilis maxillosus

Based on studies in:
USA: Texas, Hueco Mountains (Carrion substrate)
USA: Texas, Franklin Mtns (Carrion substrate)

This list may not be complete but is based on published studies.
  • K. Schoenly and W. Reid, 1983. Community structure of carrion arthropods in the Chihuahuan Desert. J. Arid Environ. 6:253-263, from pp. 256-58 & unpub. material.
  • M. McKinnerney, 1977. Carrion communities in the northern Chihuahuan Desert. M.S. thesis. University of Texas-El Paso, Texas; and 1978, Carrion communities in the northern Chihuahuan Desert. Southw. Nat. 23:563-576, from thesis and p. 571.
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Known prey organisms

Musca domestica (M. domestica larvae) preys on:
carcass
Lepus californicus

Based on studies in:
USA: Texas, Hueco Mountains (Carrion substrate)
USA: Texas, Franklin Mtns (Carrion substrate)

This list may not be complete but is based on published studies.
  • K. Schoenly and W. Reid, 1983. Community structure of carrion arthropods in the Chihuahuan Desert. J. Arid Environ. 6:253-263, from pp. 256-58 & unpub. material.
  • M. McKinnerney, 1977. Carrion communities in the northern Chihuahuan Desert. M.S. thesis. University of Texas-El Paso, Texas; and 1978, Carrion communities in the northern Chihuahuan Desert. Southw. Nat. 23:563-576, from thesis and p. 571.
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Diseases and Parasites

House flies are the carriers of more than 100 human and animal intestinal diseases and are a vector for protozoan (amoebic dysentery), bacterial (shigellosis, salmonellosis, cholera, rickettsia) and helminthic (round worms, hookworms, pinworms and tapeworms) infections as well as viral infections (Malik et al. 2007). These diseases are contracted by flies from garbage, sewage, and other sources of waste. The flies can also transmit eye diseases such as trachoma and infect wounds and skin with diseases such as cutaneous diphtheria, mycoses, yaws and leprosy. Larvae swallowed in food material sometimes survive in the human gut, causing intestinal myiasis, with symptoms of pain, nausea and vomiting. About 60% of house flies carry bacteria, most commonly staphylococci (Malik et al., 2007).

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Evolution and Systematics

Functional Adaptations

Functional adaptation

Acrobatics used to land: house fly
 

House flies land on ceilings by approaching at a 45° and then cartwheeling into the landing.

   
  "A fly lands on a ceiling by flying up at an angle of about 45° with its front feet extended; as soon as contact is made the fly cartwheels over onto its other four feet." (Foy and Oxford Scientific Films 1982:13)
  Learn more about this functional adaptation.
  • Foy, Sally; Oxford Scientific Films. 1982. The Grand Design: Form and Colour in Animals. Lingfield, Surrey, U.K.: BLA Publishing Limited for J.M.Dent & Sons Ltd, Aldine House, London. 238 p.
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Functional adaptation

Olfactory system detects decomposition: house fly
 

The olfactory systems of some flies help them find food due to their extreme sensitivity to the smell of rotting meat.

   
  "The sense of smell is vital to most insects for finding food. Flies are particularly sensitive to the chemical odour given off by rotting meat…" (Foy and Oxford Scientific Films 1982:129)
  Learn more about this functional adaptation.
  • Foy, Sally; Oxford Scientific Films. 1982. The Grand Design: Form and Colour in Animals. Lingfield, Surrey, U.K.: BLA Publishing Limited for J.M.Dent & Sons Ltd, Aldine House, London. 238 p.
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Molecular Biology and Genetics

Molecular Biology

Statistics of barcoding coverage: Musca domestica

Barcode of Life Data Systems (BOLDS) Stats
Public Records: 57
Specimens with Barcodes: 93
Species With Barcodes: 1
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Barcode data: Musca domestica

The following is a representative barcode sequence, the centroid of all available sequences for this species.


There are 91 barcode sequences available from BOLD and GenBank.  Below is a sequence of the barcode region Cytochrome oxidase subunit 1 (COI or COX1) from a member of the species.  See the BOLD taxonomy browser for more complete information about this specimen and other sequences.

CCATCCTGGGTT------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------TTATTGCATGATGGTTCCTGGATTTGGAAT------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------AATTTCTCATAT------------------------------TATTCGTCAAGAATCAGGAAAGAA---------------------------------------GGAAACATTCGGTTC------------------------------TTTAGGAATAATTTATGCTATGTTAGC------------------AATTGGACTTTTAGGATTTATTGTATGAGCTCATCACATATT---------------------TACTGTTGGAATAGACGTAGATACTCGAGCTTACTTCACTTCAGCTAC------------------------------------------AATAATTATTGCTGTACCTACTGGAAT------------------------------CAAGATTTT---------------------------------------------------------------CAGTTGATTAGCTACATTATACGGAACTCAACTAACTTATTCTCCAGCTATTTTATGAGCTTTAGGATTCTC------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------GTATTCTTATTTACTGTAGGAGGTTTAACAGGAGTAGTACTAGCTAACTCATCTGTTGATATTATTTTACATTATACATATTATGTAGTTGCTCATTTCCACTATGTA---CTTTCTATAGGAGCTGTATTTGCTATTATAGCAGGATTTGTACATTTATACCCTCTATTTACTGGATTAACTCTAAATAATAAACTTTTAAAAAGTCAATTTGTTATTATATTTATTGGAGTAAATTTAACATTCTTTCCTCAACATTTCTTAGGATTAGCCGGAATACCTCGA---CGATATTCTGATTATCCTGATGCTTATACA---GCATTAAATGTAATTTCAACAATCGGTTCAACAATTTCATTATTAGGAATTTTATATTTATTCGTATATTATCTGAGAAAGTTTAGTATCTCA------------ACGACAAGGAAATTTTCCCAATTCAAT
-- end --

Download FASTA File
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Conservation

Conservation Status

National NatureServe Conservation Status

Canada

Rounded National Status Rank: NNR - Unranked

United States

Rounded National Status Rank: NNR - Unranked

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NatureServe Conservation Status

Rounded Global Status Rank: GNR - Not Yet Ranked

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Status

Very common and widespread (1).
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Threats

This species is not threatened. It is subject to control measures in some areas as it can be a serious pest (6).
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Management

Conservation

Not relevant.
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Relevance to Humans and Ecosystems

Benefits

Despite the many negative aspect that house fly have on humans, there are however, some benefits to be derived. The first advantage is derived from its mode of nutrition and life cycle. Since digestion of food takes place outside of the body and its larval stage lives and feeds on organic matter, flies are significant decomposers, disposing of decaying matter and replacing nutrients back into the soil.

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Risks

Musca domestica is the most common species, among a multitude of houseflies. They carry pathogens, cause food spoilage, and are significant domestic, medical, and veterinary pests . Musca domestica, a synanthropic fly, has a close association with humans and their environment. Musca domestica can be found at every place where people live and they also associated with livestaock farming (e.g., poultry farms, cattle sheds, horse stables and pig farms). They feed on human food and wastes where they can pick up and transport various disease agents. Flies have proboscis that helps them suck up food because they lack teeth to chew and bite. After landing on a potential food source, the house fly first vomits its stomach contents on to the food. Digestive juices, enzymes, and saliva in the vomit breaks down and dissolve the food, making it possible for the fly to suck up the liquid food using its proboscis. If flies suck up food from any source containing pathogens or bacteria, some of these microorganisms stick to the fly’s mouth or body parts, and when the fly comes in contact with human food, these contaminating or pathogenic agents are transferred. (Malik et al., 2007).

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Wikipedia

Housefly

Not to be confused with horsefly.

The housefly (also house fly, house-fly or common housefly), Musca domestica, is a fly of the suborder Cyclorrhapha. It is the most common of all domestic flies, accounting for about 91% of all flies in human habitations, and indeed one of the most widely distributed insects, found all over the world. It is considered a pest that can carry serious diseases.

Physical description[edit]

The frontal view of a housefly
A scan of a house fly under a scanning electron microscope.

The adults are about 5–8 mm long. Their thorax is gray or sometimes even black, with four longitudinal dark lines on the back. The whole body is covered with hair-like projections. The females are slightly larger than the males, and have a much larger space between their red compound eyes. The mass of pupae can range from about 8 to 20 mg under different conditions.[1]

Like other Diptera (meaning "two-winged"), houseflies have only one pair of wings; the hind pair is reduced to small halteres that aid in flight stability. Characteristically, the media vein (M1+2 or fourth long vein of the wing) shows a sharp upward bend.

Species that appear similar to the housefly include:

  • The lesser house fly, Fannia canicularis, is somewhat smaller, more slender, and the media vein is straight.
  • The stable fly, Stomoxys calcitrans, has piercing mouthparts and the media vein is only slightly curved.

Life cycle[edit]

Anatomy of a housefly

Each female fly can lay approximately 9,000 eggs in a life time, in several batches of about 75 to 150.[2] The eggs are white and are about 1.2 mm in length. Within a day, larvae (maggots) hatch from the eggs; they live and feed on (usually dead and decaying) organic material, such as garbage, carrion or feces. They are pale-whitish, 3–9 mm long, thinner at the mouth end, and have no legs. Their life cycle ranges from 14 hours to 36 hours. At the end of their third instar, the maggots crawl to a dry, cool place and transform into pupae, coloured reddish or brown and about 8 mm long. The adult flies then emerge from the pupae. (This whole cycle is known as complete metamorphosis.) The adults live from two weeks to a month in the wild, or longer in benign laboratory conditions. Having emerged from the pupae, the flies cease to grow; small flies are not necessarily young flies, but are instead the result of getting insufficient food during the larval stage.[3]

The male mounts the female from behind

Some 36 hours after having emerged from the pupa, the female is receptive for mating. The male mounts her from behind to inject sperm. Copulation takes a few seconds to a couple of minutes.[3] Normally, the female mates only once, storing the sperm to use it repeatedly for laying several sets of eggs.[citation needed]

Housefly pupae are killed by parasitic wasp larvae. Each pupa has one hole through which a single adult wasp emerged; feeding occurs during the wasp's larval stage.
Illustration of a housefly

The flies depend on warm temperatures; generally, the warmer the temperature, the faster the flies will develop.[citation needed]

Aging[edit]

Because the somatic tissue of the housefly consists of long-lived post-mitotic cells, it can be used as an informative model system for understanding cumulative age-related cellular alterations. Agarwal and Sohal studied the level of the oxidative DNA damage 8-hydroxydeoxyguanosine (8-OHdG) in houseflies.[4] They found that the level of 8-OHdG increased with age of the flies. They also found an inverse association of 8-OHdG level with life expectancy of the flies. They concluded that their results support the hypothesis that oxidative molecular damage is a causal factor in senescence (aging). These findings are in accord with the general view that oxidative DNA damage, particularly in post-mitotic tissues, is a principal cause of aging.[5][6] (Also see DNA damage theory of aging.)

Sex determination[edit]

The housefly is an object of biological research, mainly because of one remarkable quality: the sex determination mechanism. Although a wide variety of sex determination mechanisms exist in nature (e.g. male and female heterogamy, haplodiploidy, environmental factors), the way sex is determined is usually fixed within one species. However, the housefly exhibits many different mechanisms for sex determination, such as male heterogamy (like most insects and mammals), female heterogamy (like birds) and maternal control over offspring sex. This makes the housefly one of the most suitable species to study the evolution of sex determination.[7]

Evolution[edit]

Even though the order of flies (Diptera) is much older, true houseflies are believed to have evolved in the beginning of the Cenozoic era, some 65 million years ago.[8] They are thought to have originated in the southern Palearctic region, particularly the Middle East. Because of their close, commensal relationship with humans, they probably owe their worldwide dispersal to co-migration with humans.[3]

Relationship with humans[edit]

In colder climates, houseflies survive only with humans. They have a tendency to aggregate and are difficult to dispose of. They are capable of carrying over 100 pathogens, such as those causing typhoid, cholera, salmonellosis,[9] bacillary dysentery,[10] tuberculosis, anthrax, ophthalmia, and parasitic worms.[11] Some strains have become immune to most common insecticides.[12][13]

House flies feed on liquid or semiliquid substances beside solid material which has been softened by saliva or vomit. Because of their large intake of food, they deposit feces constantly, one of the factors that makes the insect a dangerous carrier of pathogens. Although they are domestic flies, usually confined to human habitations, they can fly for several miles from the breeding place.[14] They are active only in daytime, and rest at night, e.g., at the corners of rooms, ceiling hangings, cellars, and barns, where they can survive the coldest winters by hibernation, and when spring arrives, adult flies are seen only a few days after the first thaw.

As a transmitter of disease[edit]

Mechanical transmission of organisms on its hairs, mouthparts, vomitus and feces:

Potential in waste management[edit]

The ability of housefly larvae to feed and develop in a wide range of decaying organic matter is important for recycling of nutrients in nature. Research suggests that this adaptation may be exploited to combat ever-increasing amounts of waste.[17] Housefly larvae can be mass-reared in a controlled manner in animal manure, thus reducing the bulk of waste and minimizing environmental risks of its disposal.[18][19] Harvested maggots may be used as feed for animal nutrition.[19][20]

References[edit]

  1. ^ Larraín, Patricia & Salas, Claudio (2008). "House fly (Musca domestica L.) (Diptera: Muscidae) development in different types of manure [Desarrollo de la Mosca Doméstica (Musca domestica L.) (Díptera: Muscidae) en Distintos Tipos de Estiércol]". Chilean Journal of Agricultural Research 68 (2): 192–197. doi:10.4067/S0718-58392008000200009. ISSN 0718-5839. 
  2. ^ Stuart M. Bennett (2003). "Housefly". 
  3. ^ a b c Anthony DeBartolo (June 5, 1986). "Buzz off! The housefly has made a pest of himself for 25 million years". Chicago Tribune. 
  4. ^ Agarwal S, Sohal RS (December 1994). "DNA oxidative damage and life expectancy in houseflies". Proc. Natl. Acad. Sci. U.S.A. 91 (25): 12332–5. PMC 45431. PMID 7991627. 
  5. ^ Holmes GE, Bernstein C, Bernstein H (1992). Oxidative and other DNA damages as the basis of aging: a review. Mutat Res 275(3-6):305-315. Review. PMID 1383772
  6. ^ Bernstein H, Payne CM, Bernstein C, Garewal H, Dvorak K (2008). Cancer and aging as consequences of un-repaired DNA damage. In: New Research on DNA Damages (Editors: Honoka Kimura and Aoi Suzuki) Nova Science Publishers, Inc., New York, Chapter 1, pp. 1-47. open access, but read only https://www.novapublishers.com/catalog/product_info.php?products_id=43247 ISBN 978-1604565812
  7. ^ Dübendorfer A, Hediger M, Burghardt G, Bopp D. (2002). "Musca domestica, a window on the evolution of sex-determining mechanisms in insects". International Journal of Developmental Biology 46 (1): 75–79. PMID 11902690. 
  8. ^ Brian M. Wiegmann, David K. Yeates, Jeffrey L. Thorne, Hirohisa Kishino, a fly's head, showing compound eyes and hair[dead link]
  9. ^ Ostrolenk M. & Welch H. (1942). "The house fly as a vector of food poisoning organisms in food producing establishments". American Journal of Public Health 32 (5): 487–494. 
  10. ^ Levine, O.S. & Levine M.M. (1991). "House flies (Musca domestica) as mechanical vectors of shigellosis". Reviews of Infectious Diseases 13 (4): 688–696. PMID 1925289. 
  11. ^ Förster M., Klimpel S. & Sievert K. (2009). "The house fly (Musca domestica) as a potential vector of metazoan parazites caught in a pig-pen in Germany". Veterinary Parasitology 160 (1-2): 163–167. doi:10.1016/j.vetpar.2008.10.087. 
  12. ^ Georghiou G.P. & Hawley M.K. (1971). "Insecticide resistance resulting from sequential selection of houseflies in the field by organophosphorus compounds". Bulletin of the World Health Organization 45 (1): 43–51. 
  13. ^ Keiding J. (1975). "Problems of housefly (Musca domestica) control due to multiresistance to insecticides". Journal of Hygiene, Epidemiology, Microbiology and Immunology 19 (3): 340–355. PMID 52667. 
  14. ^ Nazni W.A., Luke H., Wan Rozita W.M., Abdullah A.G., Sadiyah I., Azahari A.H., Zamree I., Tan S.B., Lee H.L. & Sofian A.M. (2005). "Determination of the flight range and despersal of the house fly, Musca domestica (L.) using mark release recapture technique". Tropical Biomedicine 22 (1): 53–61. PMID 16880754. 
  15. ^ A. L. Szalanski, C. B. Owens, T. Mckay & C. D. Steelman (2004). "Detection of Campylobacter and Escherichia coli O157:H7 from filth flies by polymerase chain reaction". Medical and Entomology 18 (3): 241–246. doi:10.1111/j.0269-283X.2004.00502.x. PMID 15347391. 
  16. ^ Sheri M. Brazil, C. Dayton Steelman & Allen L. Szalanski (2007). "Detection of pathogen DNA from filth flies (Diptera: Muscidae) using filter paper spot cards". Journal of Agricultural and Urban Entomology 24 (1): 13–18. doi:10.3954/1523-5475-24.1.13. 
  17. ^ Miller B. F., Teotia J. S. & Thatcher T. O. (1974). "Digestion of poultry manure by Musca domestica". British Poultry Science 15 (2): 231–1. doi:10.1080/00071667408416100. PMID 4447887. 
  18. ^ Cickova H., Pastor B., Kozanek M., Martinez-Sanchez A., Rojo S. & Takac P. (2012). "Biodegradation of pig manure by the housefly, Musca domestica: A viable ecological strategy for pig manure management". PLOS ONE 7 (3): e32798. doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0032798. PMID 22431982. 
  19. ^ a b Zhu FX., Wang WP., Hong CL., Feng MG., Xue ZY., Chen XY., Yao YL. & Yu M. (2012). "Rapid production of maggots as feed supplement and organic fertilizer by the two-stage composting of pig manure". Bioresource Technology 116: 485–491. doi:10.1016/j.biortech.2012.04.008. PMID 22541952. 
  20. ^ Hwangbo J., Hong E. C., Jang A., Kang H. K., Oh J. S., Kim B. W. & Park B. S. (2009). "Utilization of house fly-maggots, a feed supplement in the production of broiler chickens". Journal of Environmental Biology 30 (4): 609–614. PMID 20120505. 
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