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J Med Entomol. 2017 Jul 1;54(4):1080-1084. doi: 10.1093/jme/tjx095.

The Geographic Distribution of Ixodes scapularis (Acari: Ixodidae) Revisited: The Importance of Assumptions About Error Balance.

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Biodiversity Institute, University of Kansas, Lawrence, KS 66045.
College of Veterinary Medicine, Kansas State University, Manhattan, KS 66506.


The black-legged tick, Ixodes scapularis Say, is the primary vector of Borrelia burgdorferi, a spirochete that causes Lyme disease, in eastern North America. Lyme disease risk has generally been considered to be focused in the Northeast and the northern Midwest in the United States, yet the distribution of the vector extends considerably more broadly. A recent analysis of the distribution of the species using ecological niche modeling approaches painted an odd biogeographic picture, in which the species is distributed in a "rimming" distribution across the northern Midwest and Northeast, and along the Atlantic and Gulf coasts of the eastern United States, but not broadly in the interior of eastern North America. Here, we reanalyze the situation for this species, and demonstrate that the distribution estimated in the previous study was a consequence of assumptions about relative weights applied to different error types. A more appropriate error weighting scheme for niche modeling analyses, in which omission error is prioritized over commission error, shows a simpler distribution, in which the species ranges continuously across eastern North America; this distributional pattern is supported by independent occurrence data from the eastern Great Plains, in Kansas. We discuss implications for public health planning and intervention across the region, as well as for developing effective and predictive maps of vector distributions and pathogen transmission risk.


GIS; Ixodidae; Lyme disease; biogeography

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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