BackgroundAlmost 1000 cases of American cutaneous leishmaniasis have been registered yearly in Rondônia State, Brazil. Little is known about the Leishmania transmission cycle (vectors and reservoirs) in the state. This study aimed to evaluate sand fly fauna from two vertical stratification layers in order to identify potential vectors and their blood-meal sources.MethodsThe study was conducted in Jamari National Forest. Sand flies were collected in the canopy (15 m) and at ground level (1 m) using HP light traps during four months, February, April, August and October, 2018. Insects were identified to the species level, and females were subjected to DNA extraction and PCR targeting minicircle kDNA and hsp70 (for Leishmania detection and species identification), and cytb (to identify blood-meal sources). Exploratory data analysis was used to determine mean of abundance and species richness between stratifications. The hsp70 and cytb sequences were analyzed and compared with sequences from GenBank.ResultsOverall, 68 species were identified from 15,457 individuals. On the Potosi trail, 7531 individuals of 49 species were collected; canopy captures totaled 6463 individuals of 46 species, while ground captures totaled 1068 individuals of 38 species. On the Santa Maria trail, 7926 individuals of 61 species were collected; canopy captures totaled 6136 individuals of 51 species, while ground captures totaled 1790 individuals of 53 species. A total of 23 pools were positive for kDNA (canopy n = 21, ground n = 2). Only two samples were sequenced for hsp70 (both in canopy); one sequence exhibited similarity with Leishmania braziliensis (Lutzomyia davisi pool) and another with L. naiffi (Lu. antunesi pool). The cytb fragment was amplified in 11 of 86 samples. Sample sequencing identified cytb DNA from 5 blood-meal sources: Micrastur gilvicollis, Psophia viridis, Tamandua tetradactyla, Homo sapiens and Choloepus didactylus.ConclusionsSand fly fauna is more diverse in the canopy than at ground level. Factors such as blood-meal sources, resting sites, and abiotic components probably contribute to high abundance in the canopy. Our results reinforce the possibility that Lu. antunesi and Lu. davisi participate in Leishmania transmission in forest environments and may play an important role in transmission from sylvatic to human hosts.