Dispersal and distribution of the tick Ixodes uriae within and among seabird host populations: the need for a population genetic approach

K D McCoy, T Boulinier, J W Chardine, E Danchin, Y Michalakis
Journal of Parasitology 1999, 85 (2): 196-202
The aim of this study was to characterize the spatial distribution of the tick Ixodes uriae within and among populations of its seabird hosts and to consider the potential insight that could be gained by a population genetic approach to the issue of dispersal of this tick. Analyses of data collected around the Avalon Peninsula, Newfoundland, indicated that both the prevalence and mean abundance of ticks varied significantly among sample locations. Whereas ticks were found on all 4 host species examined (Rissa tridactyla, Uria aalge, Alca torda, Fratercula arctica), infestation prevalence and mean abundance differed among the species. On R. tridactyla, ticks were significantly aggregated at the among-nest scale and nestling infestation was spatially autocorrelated. Conversely, ticks were not aggregated among chicks within nests. These results enabled us to make a priori predictions regarding tick dispersal and host specificity and suggest there may be spatial structure of Ixodes uriae populations at both macro- and microgeographic scales. Investigating the population genetic structure of ticks within and among populations of hosts with different breeding biologies should provide direct insight into the metapopulation dynamics of such a spatially structured system.

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