Feeding aggregation of the tick Rhipicephalus appendiculatus (Ixodidae): benefits and costs in the contest with host responses.
Wang H., Hails RS., Cui WW., Nuttall PA.
Gregariousness can be advantageous in interspecific competition while intraspecific competition may favour solitude. We examined feeding behaviour of the ixodid tick, Rhipicephalus appendiculatus, in the context of interspecific (tick-host) and intraspecific (tick-tick) competition. Such competition is mediated through host rejection responses to tick infestation to which ticks respond by secreting immunodulatory saliva. We observed that group feeding adults increased their blood-feeding rate, reducing the time to mating and repletion, compared with individual feeding of paired adults. The benefits of feeding aggregation indicate direct reciprocity between ticks, most likely resulting from the shared activities of their bioactive saliva. However, fast-feeding ticks appeared to impair blood-feeding success of slow-feeding females during group feeding. This may be explained by the faster feeders exacerbating host responses on detachment that are then directed against the slower feeders. As female fecundity is generally proportional to the size of the bloodmeal, there will be a selection pressure to feed gregariously. Greater understanding of the benefits and costs of feeding aggregation may help to improve tick control strategies.