Today, I have a great post to share with you, written by Storme, about ticks on predators! I hope you will find it as interesting as I did. Enjoy!
A few years ago, while doing some fieldwork in the bush, a good friend said to me, “Don’t worry about the things that take a little blood, worry about the things that take A LOT of blood!” Well, after a morning spent in the bushy landscape, with the Big 5 and many other dangerous beasts around, I couldn’t disagree more! As per usual, I was picking ticks off myself for days afterwards, wondering if any headache I got was the start of the dreaded tick-bite fever.
But as any farmer will tell you, livestock animals also suffer greatly from tick infestation. Dipping tanks and acaricide are all in a day’s work. Unlike their domestic animal and livestock counterparts, wildlife is also vulnerable to infestation by a great variety of tick species and go without dipping.
As part of the ongoing research into wildlife health and the prevalence of tick-borne pathogens in farmlands, we’re examining which tick species are found on caracals and black-backed jackals from Karoo farmlands. Most commonly seen are the larvae of Amblyomma marmoreum, the South African Tortoise tick. As the name suggests, it’s most often found on tortoises, but also infests carnivores in its larval stages.
Besides carrying important pathogens, ticks can also have direct effects on the animals they infest. Many ticks, particularly those from the genus Ixodes, have large mouthparts that penetrate the skin of the host and can cause pain and infection. Some tick species also carry chemicals in their saliva, which can cause paralysis and eventually death. Sound familiar? This species, Ixodes rubicundus, is commonly known as the Karoo paralysis tick and affects livestock species as well as carnivores. These were among the most common ticks we found on Karoo caracals! However, lucky for the carnivores, tick load tended to be very low.
This work has been submitted for presentation at this year’s Parasitological Society of South Africa conference in Cape Town in August this year – wish us luck!