Parasitology Research

, Volume 103, Supplement 1, pp 87–95 | Cite as

Climate, niche, ticks, and models: what they are and how we should interpret them

  • Agustín Estrada-PeñaEmail author


Ticks spend most of their life cycle in the environment, and all tick life cycle stages are dependent on a complex combination of climate variables. Furthermore, host availability and vegetation significantly modulate the dynamics of tick populations. Tick recruitment is dependent on successful reproduction, which in turn requires sufficient adult tick densities, available blood meal sources, and egg survival. Though many animals can serve as hosts, there are several determinants of host suitability. For example, host availability in time and space is an important determinant of tick bionomics. Shelter and protection from environmental extremes are critical to tick survival. Questing and diapausing ticks are vulnerable to extremes of temperature and humidity. There are concerns about how predicted climate change may alter several critical features of host–parasite relationships of ticks, the potential for invasion of new areas or alteration of patterns of pathogen transmission in particular. However, modeling approaches that relate known occurrences of tick species to climate (and/or landscape) features and predict geographic occurrences are not completely fulfilling our needs to understand how the “tick panorama” can change as a consequence of these climate trends. This is a short review about the concept of ecological niche as applied to ticks, as well as some raised concerns about its evaluation and strict definition, and its usefulness to map geographical suitability for ticks. Comments about how climate, hosts, and landscape configuration are briefly discussed regarding its applicability to tick mapping and with reference about their impact on tick abundance. I will further comment on already published observations about observed changes in the geographical range of ticks in parts of Europe.


Tick Species Climate Suitability Historical Range Tick Population Climate Niche 
These keywords were added by machine and not by the authors. This process is experimental and the keywords may be updated as the learning algorithm improves.


  1. Araújo MB, Thuiller W, Williams PH, Reginster I (2005) Downscaling European species atlas distributions to a finer resolution; implications for conservation planning. Glob Ecol Biogeogr 14:17–30CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  2. Austin MP (2002) Spatial prediction of species distribution: an interface between ecological theory and statistical modelling. Ecol Model 157:101–118CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  3. Cumming GS (2000) Using between-model comparisons to fine-tune linear models of species ranges. J Biogeogr 27:441–445CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  4. Daniel M, Danielova V, Kriz B, Jirsa A, Nozicka J (2003) Shift of the tick Ixodes ricinus and tick-borne encephalitis to higher altitudes in Central Europe. Eur J Clin Microbiol Infect Dis 22:327–328PubMedGoogle Scholar
  5. Danielova V, Holubova J, Daniel M (2002) Tick-borne encephalitis virus prevalence in Ixodes ricinus ticks collected in high risk habitats of the South-Bohemian region of the Czech Republic. Exp Appl Acarol 26:145–151PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  6. Dautel H, Dippel C, Oehme R, Hartelt K, Schettler E (2006) Evidence for an increased geographical distribution of Dermacentor reticulatus and detection of Rickettsia sp. RpA4. Int J Med Microbiol 296:149–156PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  7. Doledec S, Chessel D, Gimaret-Carpentier C (2000) Niche separation in community analysis: a new method. Ecology 81:2914–2927Google Scholar
  8. Ergonul O, Celikbas A, Dokuzoguz B, Eren S, Baykam N, Esener H (2004) The characteristics of Crimean-Congo hemorrhagic fever in a recent outbreak in Turkey and the impact of oral ribavirin therapy. Clin Infect Dis 39:285–289CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  9. Estrada-Peña A (2003) The relationships between habitat topology, critical scales of connectivity and tick abundance of Ixodes ricinus in a heterogeneous landscape in northern Spain. Ecography 26:661–671CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  10. Estrada-Peña A, Venzal JM (2006) Changes in habitat suitability for the tick Ixodes ricinus (Acari: Ixodidae) in Europe (1900–1999). Ecohealth 3:154–162CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  11. Estrada-Peña A, Venzal JM (2007) Climate niches of tick species in the Mediterranean region: modelling of occurrence data, distributional constraints, and impact of climate change. J Med Entomol 44:1130–1138PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  12. Estrada-Peña A, Gray JS, Kahl O (1996) Variability in cuticular hydrocarbons and phenotypic discrimination of Ixodes ricinus populations (Acarina: Ixodidae) from Europe. Exp Appl Acarol 20:457–467CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  13. Estrada-Peña A, Martínez JM, Sánchez-Acedo C, Quílez J, Del Cacho E (2004) Phenology of the tick, Ixodes ricinus, in the southern distribution range (central Spain). Med Vet Entomol 18:387–397PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  14. Estrada-Peña A, Bouattour A, Camicas J-L, Guglielmone A, Horak I, Jongejan F, Latif AA, Pegram R, Walker AR (2006a) The known distribution and ecological preferences of the ticks subgenus Boophilus (Acari: Ixodidae) in Africa and Latin America. Exp Appl Acarol 38:219–235PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  15. Estrada-Peña A, Venzal JM, Sánchez Acedo C (2006b) The tick Ixodes ricinus: distribution and climate preferences in the western Palaearctic. Med Vet Entomol 20:189–197PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  16. Estrada-Peña A, Pegram R, Barre N (2007) Using invaded range data to model climate suitability for Amblyomma variegatum (Acari: Ixodidae) in the New World. Exp Appl Acarol 41:203–214PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  17. Gray JS (2002) Biology of Ixodes species in relation to tick-borne zoonoses. Wien Klin Wochenschr 114:473–478PubMedGoogle Scholar
  18. Guisan A, Zimmermann NE (2000) Predictive habitat distribution models in ecology. Ecol Model 135:147–186CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  19. Hugh-Jones M (1989) Applications of remote sensing to the identification of habitats of parasites and diseases vectors. Parasitol Today 5:244–251PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  20. Lindgren E, Talleklint L, Polfeldt T (2000) Impact of climatic change on the northern latitude limit and population density of the disease-transmitting European tick Ixodes ricinus. Environ Health Perspect 108:119–123PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  21. Lobo J (2007) More complex distribution models or more representative data? Biodiv Informatics 4:1–6Google Scholar
  22. Lockwood JL, Cassey P, Blackburn T (2005) The role of the propagule pressure in explaining species invasion. Trends Ecol Evol 20:223–228PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  23. Materna J, Daniel M, Danielova V (2005) Altitudinal distribution limit of the tick Ixodes ricinus shifted considerably towards higher altitudes in Central Europe: results of three years monitoring in the Krkonose Mts. (Czech Republic). Cent Eur J Public Health 13:24–28PubMedGoogle Scholar
  24. McPheron JM, Jetz W, Rogers DJ (2006) Using coarse-grained occurrence data to predict species distributions at finer spatial resolutions—possibilities and limitations. Ecol Model 192:499–522CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  25. Nijhof A, Bodaan C, Postigo M, Nieuwenhuijs H, Opsteegh M, Franssen L, Jebbink F, Jongejan F (2007) Ticks and associated pathogens from domestic animals in the Netherlands. Vector Borne Zoonotic Dis 7:585–596PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  26. Osborne P, Suárez-Seoane S (2002) Should data be partitioned spatially before building large scale distribution models? Ecol Model 157:249–259CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  27. Peterson AT, Holt RD (2003) Niche differentiation in Mexican birds: using point occurrences to detect ecological innovation. Ecol Lett 6:774–782CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  28. Peterson AT (2006) Uses and requirements of ecological niche models and related distributional models. Biodiv Informatics 3:59–72Google Scholar
  29. Prinzing A, Durka W, Klotz S (2002) Geographic variability of ecological niches of plant species: are competition and stress relevant? Ecography 25:721–729CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  30. Randolph SE, Green RM, Hoodless AN, Peacey MF (2002) An empirical quantitative framework for the seasonal population dynamics of the tick Ixodes ricinus. Int J Parasitol 32:979–989PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  31. Schoener TW (1989) The ecological niche. In: Cherret J (ed) Ecological concepts: the contribution of ecology to an understanding of the natural world. Blackwell Scientific, Oxford, pp 790–813Google Scholar
  32. Skarpaas T, Ljøstad U, Sundøy A (2004) First human cases of tickborne encephalitis, Norway. Emerg Infect Dis 10:2241–2243PubMedGoogle Scholar
  33. Skarphedinsson S, Jensen PM, Kristiansen K (2005) Survey of tickborne infections in Denmark. Emerg Infect Dis 11:1055–1061PubMedGoogle Scholar
  34. Talleklint L, Jaenson TG (1998) Increasing geographical distribution and density of Ixodes ricinus (Acari: Ixodidae) in central and northern Sweden. J Med Entomol 35:521–526PubMedGoogle Scholar
  35. Thuiller W, Lavorel S, Araújo M (2005) Niche properties and geographical extent as predictors of species sensitivity to climate change. Glob Ecol Biogeogr 14:347–357CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  36. Thuiller W, Mifgley GF, Hughes GO, Bomhard B, Drew G, Rutherford MC, Woodward FI (2006) Endemic species and ecosystem sensitivity to climate change in Namibia. Glob Chang Biol 12:759–776CrossRefGoogle Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag 2008

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of Parasitology, Veterinary FacultyUniversity of ZaragozaZaragozaSpain

Personalised recommendations