Host-odour recognition in two tick species is coded in a blend of vertebrate volatiles
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The questing behaviour of ixodid ticks serves for identification and localisation of approaching hosts and is evoked by carbon dioxide, vibrations, visual and odour stimuli. In an olfactometer, we examined the specificity of the questing response of larvae of Boophilus microplus, a one-host tick which develops mainly on cattle, and Ixodes ricinus, a three-host tick with a broader host spectrum. While all mammalian odours tested were equally stimulatory for I. ricinus, B. microplus was clearly more activated by bovine odours. A phenolic fraction of bovine odour stimulated B. microplus only. Attractive components of the host odours were identified by exposing the ticks to single chemicals and mixtures. Single chemicals stimulated questing responses only at levels higher than the levels detected in the bovine odour. However, an artificial odour blend of 37 pure chemicals, diluted to concentrations at which the individual components were inactive, proved to be as effective as natural host odour for both tick species. Further fractionation of the blend revealed that the combinatory effect was achieved by only 7 compounds in both species. Although B. microplus responded to the same synergistic mixture of volatiles as I. ricinus, it showed significant higher sensitivity to the cattle-associated compounds 1-octen-3-ol and 2-nitrophenol and this might contribute to its host-specificity.
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