2009 Student Research Conference:
22nd Annual Student Research Conference

Rise of the Ticks: Modeling the Questing Behavior of Nymphal Dermacentor variabilis in Response to Environmental Factors
William K. Petry
Dr. Laura Fielden, Dr. Stephanie Fore, and Dr. Hyun-Joo Kim, Faculty Mentors

All ticks must find a suitable host to obtain a blood meal for molting and reproduction. Ecological and physiological factors that prohibit a tick from utilizing a host are collectively called host filter mechanisms. Questing is a behavior exhibited by ticks that employ an ambush strategy for acquiring a host. A host-seeking tick will climb vegetation and extend the first pair of legs to detect and grip a host that brushes past. Hosts are filtered based on whether the tick quests within the body size range of the host. The questing height of American dog tick nymphs, Dermacentor variabilis (Say), was measured in response to environmental factors in order to generate a predictive model that could be applied to understand environmental impacts on host tick loads. No candidate model had predictive power, though the correlation of observed questing heights and the body sizes of important hosts for nymphal D. variabilis further supports that questing height is innate.

Keywords: tick, questing, modeling, host filter mechanism

Topic(s):Mathematical Biology

Presentation Type: Oral Paper

Session: 33-1
Location: OP 2111
Time: 1:15

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