RESEARCH PAPER
Conspecific hyperparasitism in the Hyalomma excavatum tick and considerations on the biological and epidemiological implications of this phenomenon
 
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1
Chair and Department of Biology and Parasitology, Medical University, Lublin, Poland
2
Institute of Parasitology, Slovak Academy of Sciences, Slovak Republic
3
Institute of Zoology, Slovak Academy of Sciences, Slovak Republic
CORRESPONDING AUTHOR
Alicja Buczek   

Medical University, Chair and Department of Biology and Parasitology, ul. Radziwiłłowska 11, 20-080, Lublin, Poland
 
KEYWORDS
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ABSTRACT
Introduction:
This study presents for the first time a case of Hyalomma excavatum hyperparasitism and an analysis of this phenomenon in terms of its potential role in the biology of ticks and epidemiology of tick-borne diseases.

Material and methods:
Two partially engorged H. excavatum females, one fully engorged female, and 5 males were collected from a naïve rabbit and placed together in a rearing chamber at a temperature of 25°C and 75% humidity.

Results:
3–4 days after tick detachment from the host’s skin, one partially engorged H. excavatum female was observed attached to the idiosoma of the fully engorged conspecific female.

Conclusions:
This study and observations of other authors confirm that partially engorged ixodid ticks can re-infest the host, and even co-feeding fully engorged ticks in order to collect the blood meal that is indispensable for important physiological processes. However, inefficient feeding of a partially engorged female on another conspecific female may reduce its reproductive performance and disturb the development of eggs and larvae. It seems that parasitism of a tick on another conspecific specimen, when at least one of them is infected by a microorganism, may be a yet poorly explored route of transmission of pathogens or symbionts between the ticks. Initiation of feeding by a hungry or partially engorged tick on a fully engorged specimen is an attempt to obtain food in the drastic conditions of the absence of a target host. Tick hyperparasitism with concurrent pathogen transmission can contribute to the genospecific diversity of pathogens in vectors and hosts.

 
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