"So, naturalists observe, a flea has smaller fleas that on him prey; and these have smaller still to bite ’em; and so proceed ad infinitum."
- Jonathan Swift
May 1, 2010
May 1 - Ambylomma variegatum
Yesterday you saw the bacteria that are responsible for Q fever – Coxiella burnetii and learned that they can be transmitted by ticks. This tick, Ambylomma variegatum, is one of those ticks – and what a handsome tick that it is (well, at least the males)! These ticks are present in sub-Saharan Africa, but they have been introduced to several islands in the Caribbean as well. They have a wide range of hosts that they take bloodmeals from – as larvae and nymphs they feed on birds, reptiles, sheep or goats and as adults they like cattle, horses, camels, and some antelope as well. These ticks vector not only Q fever but also heartwater and African tick-bite fever (we’ll meet these later), and on top of that, they also have a really nasty bite due to their very long mouthparts. These bites can be painful and sometimes are also sources for secondary infections of both bacteria and screwworms. So, they might be good-looking, but they’re pretty nasty little arachnids.
Photo of male (left) and female (right) A. variegatum ticks, from this recent paper on Q fever in Senegal.