Taxonomic description

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TICKS

Group description

Ticks are among the widespread species in the world affecting almost every living animal. They belong to the phylum Arthropoda of kingdom Animalia. Ticks are classified under the class Arachnida with various subclasses (Walker, 2017). The subclass Acaria is composed of ticks both hard and soft ticks.

Taxonomic description

Hard ticks (Ixodidae) can be classified as:

Kingdom: Animalia

Phylum: Arthropoda

Class: Arachnida

Subclass: Acaria

Order: Anactinotrichidea

Suborder: Ixodida

Family: Ixodidae

Genus: Dermacentor

Species: Dermacentor variablis (American Dog Tick)

Morphological description

Ticks are generally characterized by an extreme fusion of the body parts. Has three body parts: head, thorax and abdomen. They have a brown color. The general body of ticks is oval in shape and is composed of a cephalothorax and the abdomen. A false head, the capitulum projects forward beyond the rest of the body and is visible from the aerial view. Ticks have four pairs of legs to which terminate in a pair of claws (Snodgrass, 2018). They have no antenna, the palps are swollen and segmented into three parts. The hard ticks have a dorsal scutum which covers the entire body in males while in females it is much smaller. The genital openings is located in the second pairs of legs for the females and has a single pair of eyes. Ticks are wingless and thus are mainly dispersed by their host or crawling. They feed on the host blood day and night and they may live up to several years.

Pictures of tick morphology

Map showing the range distribution in America

The hard ticks are widely spread in the east of the Rocky Mountains as well as the east of the pacific coast in America (Hecht et al. 2019). They are also widely distributed in the world.

Habitat

Hard ticks thrive in habitats that are rich in vertebrates which act as the host for example dogs (Nicholson et al. 2019). Most preferred habitat for the hard ticks is the bushy, weedy and wooded regions that mostly characterized by moist woodlands and vegetation most likely in the forests. Other habitats include hiking trails and grassy fields.

Seasonality

Most ticks depict seasonality in their life cycles and in most cases, the adult ticks become active and start feeding on the host at the start of the rains. The hard ticks lay their eggs one to two days after mating which then hatch after two weeks in warm conditions (Liu et al. 2016). The females in cold climates may delay the egg-laying process for months, and the eggs can take three to four months before hatching, and this explains the seasonality of hard ticks.

Behavior

Ticks do not have an alternative source of food but depend on blood alone from their hosts. Most of the hard ticks have numerous hosts as they can survive from any vertebrate. Ticks are preyed on by other animals as there are various types of poultry and wild birds that do feed on ticks (Samish & Rehacek, 1999). Other predators include centipedes, ants, beetles and other predatory insects. Ticks have a faster rate of multiplication, and the females lay many eggs ranging from 3,000 to 6,000 on the ground. The adult ticks seek the host animals and after the sucking of blood quickly mate. The male ticks do not have a long life as they die after mating with one or more females. However, some may live for several months. Ticks have an incomplete metamorphosis that involves four stages that include egg, larva, nymph and adult. The best way to observe the ticks is during the day especially in the habitats or when the host is resting.

Listing Information

The tick species are threatened as they pose enormous economic problems and thus need to be controlled. Ticks destroy the health of the host, weakening their body and at the same time transmit diseases from one host to the other. The use of pesticides has led to the declining population of the hard ticks as they are a threat to the life of man both health wise and economically. The continued spray with pesticides helps to kill the ticks and at the same time reduce infections. Possible conflicts of tics and humans if through attacking livestock which is the source of livelihood and pets such as dogs that provide comfort and security at home. Ticks cause restlessness to the animals and reduced production making an issue of concern to humans. Management strategies include spraying with pesticides to eliminate the species. Filling of cracks and crevices, as well as the use of repellants, can be used to control ticks.

Reference List

Hecht, J. A., Allerdice, M. E., Dykstra, E. A., Mastel, L., Eisen, R. J., Johnson, T. L., … & Paddock, C. D. (2019). Multistate Survey of American Dog Ticks (Dermacentor variabilis) for Rickettsia Species. Vector-Borne and Zoonotic Diseases.

Liu, L., Li, L., Liu, J., Yu, Z., Yang, X., & Liu, J. (2016). Population dynamics of multiple symbionts in the hard tick, Dermacentor silvarum Olenev (Acari: Ixodidae). Ticks and tick-borne diseases, 7(1), 188-192.

Nicholson, W. L., Sonenshine, D. E., Noden, B. H., & Brown, R. N. (2019). Ticks (Ixodida). In Medical and veterinary entomology (pp. 603-672). Academic Press.

Samish, M., & Rehacek, J. (1999). Pathogens and predators of ticks and their potential in biological control. Annual review of entomology, 44(1), 159-182.

Snodgrass, R. E. (2018). Principles of insect morphology. Cornell University Press.

Walker, M. D. (2017). Ticks on dogs and cats. The Veterinary Nurse, 8(9), 486-492.

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