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Differential diagnosis of three common Ixodes spp. ticks infesting songbirds of Western Europe: Ixodes arboricola, I. frontalis and I. ricinus

Heylen, Dieter, De Coninck, Eliane, Jansen, Famke, Madder, Maxime
Ticks and tick-borne diseases 2014 v.5 no.6 pp. 693-700
Ixodes, Turdus, developmental stages, habitats, hosts, mitochondria, pathogens, phylogeny, ribosomal DNA, songbirds, space and time, tick-borne diseases, ticks, understory, vegetation, Western European region
The three most common Ixodes spp. ticks found on songbirds in Western Europe are Ixodes frontalis, I. arboricola and I. ricinus. As the latter species is a generalist, it shares several avian hosts with the two strictly ornithophilic species. Infestations of the three species can overlap in time and space, implying that tick-borne pathogens maintained by the ornithophilic ticks and their hosts could be bridged by I. ricinus to non-avian hosts. Whereas the endophilic Ixodes arboricola only occurs in cavities, I. frontalis has been collected frequently by flagging methods from understory vegetation, which is also the habitat of the field-dwelling I. ricinus. As the latter two species have rather similar morphological characteristics, they can easily be confused with each other. In this study, we present scanning electron photomicrographs of all developmental stages of I. arboricola and I. frontalis, and provide a differential diagnosis key to distinguish the ornithophilic ticks from I. ricinus. In addition, we interpreted their phylogenetic associations based on mitochondrial 16S rDNA with other Ixodes spp. ticks (I. lividus, I. turdus, I. brunneus, I. vespertilionis, I. trianguliceps, I. hexagonus, I. scapularis).