, Volume 154, Issue 1, pp 185–194 | Cite as

Host community structure and infestation by ixodid ticks: repeatability, dilution effect and ecological specialization

Community Ecology


Abundance of a species in a location results from the interplay between the intrinsic properties of that species and the extrinsic properties, both biotic and abiotic, of the local habitat. Intrinsic factors promote among-population stability in abundance, whereas extrinsic factors generate variation among populations of a species. We studied (a) repeatability and (b) the effect of abundance and species richness of small mammals on the level of their infestation by larvae and nymphs of Ixodes ricinus (ecological generalist) and Ixodes trianguliceps (ecological specialist). We asked if tick infestation parameters are characteristic (=repeatable) for a particular host species or a particular stage of a particular tick species. We also asked how abundance and diversity of hosts affect the level of tick infestation on a particular host species. We predicted that the dilution effect (decrease in tick infestation levels with an increase of host abundance and/or species richness) will be better expressed in an ecological generalist, I. ricinus, than in an ecological specialist, I. trianguliceps. We found that (a) tick abundance, prevalence and aggregation were generally repeatable within tick species/stage; (b) tick abundance and prevalence, but not the aggregation level, were repeatable within host species; (c) the proportion of variance among samples explained by the differences between tick species and stages (as opposed to within-tick species and stage) was higher than that explained by the differences between host species (as opposed to within host species); and (d) the relationship between tick infestation parameters and host abundance and diversity revealed the dilution effect for I. ricinus but not for I. trianguliceps.


Dilution effect Infestation Repeatability Small mammals Ticks 



We thank Allan Degen, Thomas Hoffmeister and an anonymous referee for helpful comments on an earlier version of the manuscript. This study was partly supported by the Slovak Grant Committee VEGA (grants no. 2/5032/25 and 2/6199/6 to M. Stanko) and by the Israel Science Foundation (grant no. 249/04 to B.R. Krasnov). This is publication no. 572 of the Mitrani Department of Desert Ecology and no. 232 of the Ramon Science Center.


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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag 2007

Authors and Affiliations

  • Boris R. Krasnov
    • 1
  • Michal Stanko
    • 2
  • Serge Morand
    • 3
  1. 1.Mitrani Department of Desert Ecology, Jacob Blaustein Institutes for Desert ResearchBen-Gurion University of the NegevMizpe RamonIsrael
  2. 2.Institute of ZoologySlovak Academy of SciencesKosiceSlovakia
  3. 3.Institut des Sciences de l’Evolution, CNRS-UM2 CC065University of Montpellier IIMontpellierFrance

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