2006 Student Research Conference:
19th Annual Student Research Conference


Plastron Respiration in Ticks
Susan Villarreal*, Bach Ha, and Mark Thomas
Dr. Laura Fielden and Dr. Phil Ryan, Faculty Mentors

Some insects can breathe air under water by means of a plastron. A plastron is a physical gill consisting of a thin layer of air trapped by hydrophobic hairs. The spiracular plates of ticks have been postulated to serve as plastrons. In this study, we confirm the existence of plastron respiration in ticks. Adult dog ticks (Dermacentor variabilis) can survive submergence in water for over two weeks. Wetting the spiracular plate with alcohol, thereby debilitating plastron function lowered survival to less than three days. Biomathematical studies currently in progress are modeling the efficiency of the spiracular plate as a plastron. It is hoped that this model can be successfully used in the future to predict underwater survivability of other species of ticks which show both interspecific and intergeneric morphological variation in spiracular plate structure. This study provides the first example of plastron respiration in the Ixodidae.

Keywords: ticks, plastron, respiration

Topic(s):Mathematical Biology

Presentation Type: Oral Paper

Session: 13-4
Location: OP 2210
Time: 9:00

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