Female ixodid ticks grow endocuticle during the rapid phase of engorgement
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Lees (Proc Zool Soc Lond 121:759–772, 1952) concluded that the ixodid tick Ixodes ricinus grows endocuticle during the slow but not during the rapid, phase of engorgement, a conclusion supported by Andersen and Roepstorff (Insect Biochem Mol Biol 35:1181–1188, 2005) for the same species. In this study analysis of dimensional data and cuticle weight measurements from female ixodid ticks (Amblyomma hebraeum) were used to test this hypothesis. Both approaches showed that endocuticle growth continues during the rapid phase, tapering to zero at a fed/unfed weight ratio of ~60. Of the total mass of cuticle in the engorged tick 32–43% was formed during the rapid phase. We demonstrate that if cuticle growth stopped at the end of the slow phase, there would not be sufficient cuticle to account for the thickness of cuticle observed at the end of engorgement. This finding is consistent with prior studies of Rhipicephalus (Boophilus) microplus, and with a dimensional analysis of the cuticle thickness data of Lees for I. ricinus, in contradiction to his conclusion from an analysis of tick cuticle weight measurements. An examination of cuticle weight measurements for I. ricinus by Andersen and Roepstorff similarly supports the finding of cuticle growth during the rapid phase. All ixodid ticks undergo major body expansion, typically tenfold or more, during a rapid phase of engorgement and require sufficient cuticle at the end of that process to contain their body. The fact that cuticle grows during the rapid phase of engorgement in three species suggests that this is a general characteristic of the family Ixodidae.
KeywordsCuticle synthesis Ixodid ticks Amblyomma hebraeum Ixodes ricinus Rhipicephalus (Boophilus) microplus Rapid phase of engorgement
This research was generously supported from a Discovery Grant to WRK from the Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council (NSERC) of Canda. Dr. Kevin Friesen, Mr. Andrew Hulleman and Mr. Alex Smith provided some of the dimensional measurements of A. hebraeum. Professor M. Flynn of the Department of Mechanical Engineering at the University of Alberta has been a consistent source of helpful mathematical advice. Figure. 6 reproduces a Fig. 5 from Andersen and Roepstorff (2005) with the kind permission of Elsevier.
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