Tick community composition in Midwestern US habitats in relation to sampling method and environmental conditions
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The ranges of many tick species are changing due to climate change and human alteration of the landscape. Understanding tick responses to environmental conditions and how sampling method influences measurement of tick communities will improve our assessment of human disease risk. We compared tick sampling by three collection methods (dragging, CO2 trapping and rodent surveys) in adjacent forested and grassland habitats in the lower Midwest, USA, and analyzed the relationship between tick abundance and microclimate conditions. The study areas were within the overlapping ranges of three tick species, which may provide conditions for pathogen exchange and spread into new vectors. Dermacentor variabilis (American dog tick) was found using all methods, Amblyomma americanum (lonestar tick) was found by dragging and CO2 trapping and Ixodes scapularis (blacklegged deer tick) was found only on rodents. Proportion of each species differed significantly among sampling methods. More ticks were found in forests compared to open habitats. Further, more ticks were collected by dragging and from rodents in hotter, drier conditions. Our results demonstrate that multiple sampling methodologies better measure the tick community and that microclimate conditions strongly influence the abundance and activity of individual tick species.
KeywordsAmblyomma americanum Dermacentor variabilis Ixodes scapularis Sampling methods Microclimate
The authors would like to acknowledge Hadas Hawlena for help with this project during 2009. We thank A. Avalos, A. Bechtel, and J. Kagemann for assistance with field collections of ticks, J.O. Whitaker and R. Pinger for help with tick identifications, the property owners and managers for access to study sites, S. Dickenson for statistical consulting, and B.F. Allan for advice in constructing CO2 traps and analysis of microclimate data. Funding was provided through an Indiana Academy of Science Senor Researcher Grant and NSF Doctoral Dissertation Improvement Grant (Award #1110514) to ECR, NSF-NIH grant DEB-03268742 to KC, the Indiana Metabolomics and Cytomics Initiative of Indiana University (IU) awarded to KC, and by the IU Center for Research in Environmental Sciences awarded to KC. All research was carried out with approval from the Bloomington Institutional Animal Care and Use Committee (permit # 11-001).
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