April 7, 2011
Today's parasite is a tick described from an endangered marsupial. Ixodes neuquenensis is an ectoparasite of a unique little marsupial known as monito del monte or "mountain monkey" (Dromiciops gliroides).
The "mountain monkey" is the only species still alive from an ancient lineage dating back more than 40 million years. Due to habitat loss, the population of this little marsupial has declined over recent years. This is bad news for I. neuquenensis because it is a very host-specific tick. If the "mountain monkey" goes extinct, it will also spell doom for this tick, along with a whole suite of other parasites and symbionts which are dependent upon this little marsupial.
Guglielmone AA, Venzal JM, Amico G, Mangold AJ, Keirans JE (2004) Description of the nymph and larva and redescriptions of the female of Ixodes neuquenensis Ringuelet, 1947 (Acari: Ixodidae), a parasite of the endangered Neotropical marsupial Dromiciops gliroides Thomas (Microbiotheria: Microbiotheriidae). Systematic Parasitology 57:211–219