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Exp Appl Acarol. 2011 Jan;53(1):79-94. doi: 10.1007/s10493-010-9378-4. Epub 2010 Jun 29.

Attachment site selection of ticks on roe deer, Capreolus capreolus.

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Department of Forest Zoology and Forest Conservation incl. Wildlife Biology and Game Management, Büsgen-Institute, Georg-August-University Göttingen, Büsgenweg 3, 37077, Göttingen, Germany.


The spatio-temporal attachment site patterns of ticks feeding on their hosts can be of significance if co-feeding transmission (i.e. from tick to tick without a systemic infection of the host) of pathogens affects the persistence of a given disease. Using tick infestation data on roe deer, we analysed preferred attachment sites and niche width of Ixodes ticks (larvae, nymphs, males, females) and investigated the degree of inter- and intrastadial aggregation. The different development stages showed rather consistent attachment site patterns and relative narrow feeding site niches. Larvae were mostly found on the head and on the front legs of roe deer, nymphs reached highest densities on the head and highest adult densities were found on the neck of roe deer. The tick stages feeding (larvae, nymphs, females) on roe deer showed high degrees of intrastadial spatial aggregation, whereas males did not. Male ticks showed large feeding site overlap with female ticks. Feeding site overlap between larval-female and larval-nymphal ticks did occur especially during the months May-August on the head and front legs of roe deer and might allow pathogen transmission via co-feeding. Tick density, niche width and niche overlap on roe deer are mainly affected by seasonality, reflecting seasonal activity and abundance patterns of ticks. Since different tick development stages occur spatially and temporally clustered on roe deer, transmission experiments of tick-borne pathogens are urgently needed.

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