Saturday, 3 September 2011

Ticks can thrive on water reptiles (Via Herp Digest)

Ticks can thrive on water reptiles
8/30/11 Written by, Staff report,

Most Louisianans are familiar with ticks - those pesky, blood-sucking arachnids that thrive in humid environments, particularly wooded or grassy areas. New evidence is emerging, however, indicating that ticks can thrive on a reptile whose entire life is spent in or near the water.
For six weeks this summer, Lisa Brown, 25, a graduate student of biology at the University of Louisiana at Monroe, studied the biogeographic phenomenon at two field sites, including a small tropical island off the Pacific coast of Colombia, South America, where an aquatic turtle of the genus Rhinoclemmys, carried the parasite.

"Leeches typically fill that niche on aquatic turtles, but there are no leeches on the island," Brown explained. "I just thought it seemed interesting and really bizarre. I started doing research to see if anything had been documented about it, and I only found a couple of papers that described it in certain mammals. I got more excited because it seemed like a really unique project to take on."
She says the ticks may have gills enabling them to breathe under water and presented her findings at the Ninth Annual Symposium on the Conservation and Biology of Tortoises and Freshwater Turtles, Aug. 14-17, the joint annual meeting of the Turtle Survival Alliance and the IUCN Tortoise and Freshwater Turtle Specialist Group.

In an unusual twist, on the Colombian mainland the same species of turtle is virtually devoid of the ticks, and instead boasts a large number of leeches, according to Brown. Brown finished her undergraduate studies at the University of Texas at Tyler and is scheduled to graduate ULM in May 2012.

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