Faculté des sciences

Darkness induces mobility, and saturation deficit limits questing duration, in the tick Ixodes ricinus

Perret, Jean-Luc ; Guerin, Patrick M. ; Diehl, Peter A. ; Vlimant, Michèle ; Gern, Lise

In: Journal of experimental biology, 2003, vol. 206, p. 1809-1815

The behaviour of Ixodes ricinus nymphs was recorded in 10-day experiments using computer-assisted video-tracking, in the absence of any host stimuli. These ticks switch spontaneously from questing in a desiccating atmosphere to quiescence in a water-saturated atmosphere after dark. Quantification of both questing and quiescence duration demonstrates that questing duration is inversely... Plus

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    Summary
    The behaviour of Ixodes ricinus nymphs was recorded in 10-day experiments using computer-assisted video-tracking, in the absence of any host stimuli. These ticks switch spontaneously from questing in a desiccating atmosphere to quiescence in a water-saturated atmosphere after dark. Quantification of both questing and quiescence duration demonstrates that questing duration is inversely related to saturation deficit whereas quiescence duration is not. Distance walked after quiescence increased with desiccating conditions, while the distance walked after questing remained unchanged. Almost all locomotor activities of I. ricinus occurred during darkness under either a 14 h:10 h L:D or a 8 h:4 h L:D cycle. We established that all life stages of I. ricinus are equipped to sense shifts in light intensity with bilaterally placed strings of photoreceptors. This permits I. ricinus to use onset of darkness to trigger mobility when desiccation risk is reduced in nature.