, Volume 198, Issue 6, pp 309-321

Anteroposterior gradient during nymphal-adult moulting cycle of the tropical bont tick, Amblyomma variegatum (Acarina: Ixodidae)

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The structure of the extensible (alloscutum) and inextensible (scutum) integument of the nymph, Amblyomma variegatum was examined during the whole bloodmeal and the nymphal-adult moulting cycle. Integumental events were tentatively correlated with the ecdysteroid levels measured by radioimmunoassay. We observed that all the integumental events were realised along an anteroposterior gradient. During the 5 days corresponding to the bloodmeal, although the hormone concentration was low, a new endocuticle was deposited on both the alloscutum and scutum. Furthermore, mitoses were initiated in the capitulum. On days 1–2 after the meal, ecdysteroid titres began to increase and reached a first peak corresponding to 4.1 ng 20-hydroxyecdysone equivalents/tick on the 4th day after the ticks dropped off their host. At this time the epidermis of the capitulum was detached and the outline of the adult capitulum was already visible. Mitotic activity in the alloscutum was initiated. On day 6 post-drop, the frontal apolysis was achieved and the ecdysteroid titres declined to basal values. A second peak much higher than the first one (maximum value of 33.7 ng/tick) and identified principally as 20-hydroxyecdysone by HPLC/RIA was noted on the 13th day post-drop. During the period of increase in the ecdysteroid levels (days 9–10 post-drop), the mitotic phase ended in the alloscutum and the apolysis began. Epicuticle was deposited after day 12 postdrop. Then, while the titre fell to low values (about 1.6 ng/tick, days 16–20 post-drop), the exocuticle was deposited and the nymphal cuticle was digested. All adult structures were functional 3 days before ecdysis. In young male as in female adults the mean value of the ecdysteroid levels corresponded to about 2.5 ng/tick. Finally, hydrolysis of tick whole extracts with esterase demonstrated a low increase of RIA-positive material, demonstrating the probable presence of natural ecdysteroid fatty-acid conjugates in this species.