Functional morphology of tarsal adhesive pads and attachment ability in ticks Ixodes ricinus (Arachnida, Acari, Ixodidae)

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Abstract

The presence of well-developed, elastic claws on ticks and widely pilose hosts led us to hypothesise that ticks are mostly adapted to attachment and locomotion on rough, strongly corrugated and hairy, felt-like substrates. However, by using a combination of morphological and experimental approaches, we visualised the ultrastructure of attachment devices of Ixodes ricinus and showed that this species adheres more strongly to smooth surfaces than to rough ones. Between paired, elongated, curved, elastic claws, I. ricinus bears a large, flexible, foldable adhesive pad, which represents an adaptation to adhesion on smooth surfaces. Accordingly, ticks attached strongest to glass and to surface profiles similar to those of the human skin, generating safety factors (attachment force relative to body weight) up to 534 (females). Considerably lower attachment force was found on silicone substrates and as a result of thanatosis after jolting.

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Voigt, D., & Gorb, S. (2017). Functional morphology of tarsal adhesive pads and attachment ability in ticks Ixodes ricinus (Arachnida, Acari, Ixodidae). Journal of Experimental Biology, 220(11), 1984–1996. https://doi.org/10.1242/jeb.152942

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