The activity periods and life-cycle of the tick Ixodes uriae (Acari: Ixodidae) in relation to host breeding strategies

T R Barton, M P Harris, S Wanless, D A Elston
Parasitology 1996, 112: 571-80
We investigated the timing of seasonal activity of the seabird tick Ixodes uriae by examining engorgement rates of off-host ticks and the prevalence of infested common guillemots (Uria aalge) and kittiwakes (Rissa tridactyla) on the Isle of May, Scotland. More than 99% of I. uriae fed during the period late April to early August which coincided with the seabird breeding season. No ticks fed in the autumn and winter, and none over-wintered in the engorged state. Peak tick feeding activity was during the hosts' incubation period in May and early June, when over 70% of birds were parasitized. Few ticks were active when guillemot chicks were being brooded, or during the early part of kittiwake chick-rearing. Adult female tick feeding peaked in the first week of June, while nymphal and larval activity peaked in the third week of May. Adult female ticks fed later than nymphs on guillemots and larvae on both guillemots and kittiwakes; however, there was considerable temporal overlap in the feeding periods of the 3 stages of both hosts. All larvae and nymphs fed in May and early June, but up to 18% of adult females remained unengorged at this time, and probably deferred feeding by 1 year. A small proportion of individuals which fed as larvae in May appeared to feed again as nymphs in July of the same season, thereby shortening their life-cycle by 1 year. The duration of the life-cycle of I. uriae on the Isle of May is typically 3 years but varies from 2 to 4 years. Ticks feeding on guillemots did so significantly earlier than those feeding on kittiwakes, possibly because guillemots start breeding earlier in the year. Breeding of both guillemots and kittiwakes was later in 1994 than in 1993. This delayed the activity of all tick stages on kittiwakes and adult female ticks on guillemots, but did not affect the timing of activity of nymphs or larvae feeding on guillemots.

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