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

Medical University, Chair and Department of Biology and Parasitology, ul. Radziwiłłowska 11, 20-080, Lublin, Poland
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.

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.

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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