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Exp Appl Acarol. 2011 Jun;54(2):151-64. doi: 10.1007/s10493-011-9432-x. Epub 2011 Feb 25.

Comparative population dynamics of a generalist (Ixodes ricinus) and specialist tick (I. hexagonus) species from European hedgehogs.

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Department of Ecology and Parasitology, KIT, Karlsruhe Institute of Technology, Zoological Institute, Kornblumenstrasse 13, 76131 Karlsruhe, Germany.


Although the population dynamics of the tick Ixodes ricinus are relatively well studied, those of other Western European tick species are largely unknown. Moreover, there is very little information related to the interactions between I. ricinus and other ticks. Such knowledge, however, is of special interest in respect to the epidemiology of tick-borne pathogens such as Borrelia spp. We compared the dynamics of the generalist I. ricinus with the nest-dwelling hedgehog specialist, I. hexagonus. Both species were collected from hedgehogs from a naturally infested experimental population between 2006 and 2008. Ticks were collected once a month from March to October from each hedgehog counted and the life history stage and species determined. All hedgehogs harboured both tick species. Nymphs, females and males of I. ricinus showed clear bimodal seasonal distributions with peaks in spring and autumn, while larvae peaked only in summer. The density of I. hexagonus life stages was low during the whole investigation period and seasonal fluctuations of population density were much weaker compared to I. ricinus. Nymphs and larvae showed comparatively little change in population size and no consistent period of peak density. Females showed a single peak in summer and males were found only occasionally on hedgehogs. We suggest density-dependent mechanisms regulating the population density of the specialist I. hexagonus but not of the generalist I. ricinus.

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