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Types of Ticks

Batul Nafisa Baxamusa
Ticks belong to the phylum Arthropoda, that is the largest phylum in the animal kingdom. Most of us are aware of deer ticks that spread Lyme disease. There are over 850 different species of ticks in the world.

Did You Know?

Many people assume that ticks are insects, when in reality these blood-sucking creatures are arachnids. These simple arthropods have simple eyes and four legs. They are more closely related to spiders and scorpions than insects.

Different Kinds of Ticks

Ticks are a nuisance not only for humans, but also for dogs as well as other pet animals. These wingless parasites suck on blood of warm-blooded animals. They will latch onto the skin of any animal like cattle and even birds. There are many species of ticks that are divided into two broad categories. These include the soft ticks and the hard ticks.

Soft Ticks

Soft ticks are those with tough, leathery skin. These ticks are known as the Argasidae. They are found in caves or nests. Soft ticks feed on bats, birds and ground nesting animals. Humans come in contact with these arachnids in caves or campsites.
Soft ticks undergo a series of molts in the nymphal development stage. Soft ticks tend to feed more than the hard ticks. Their mouth parts are visible from above and are carriers of bacteria that cause Lyme disease, Rocky Mountain spotted fever, babesiosis, ehrlichiosis, tularemia and tick-borne relapsing fever.
Unlike hard shell ticks they do not feed continuously on one host. They break off and latch onto another host intermittently. The most commonly observed soft shell tick is the spinose ear tick (Otobius megnini) in the US.

Hard Ticks

Also known as Ixodidae, hard ticks are those having a hard shield on the back and mouth with parts that project from the head. These ticks get themselves embedded under the host skin. They feed upon the blood of mammals, like humans, wild and domestic animals. With every blood meal, hard ticks develop from one stage to another of their life cycle.
They have a distinct larval, nymphal and adult stage. One hard tick may feed from 3 hosts in its entire life. These ticks are quite dangerous as they can live for many years without food. The American dog tick and the brown tick are some of the common species of the hard shell ticks found in North America.

Different Species of Ticks

There are about 90 types of tick species found in North America. Of these 90, there are 10 species of the soft ticks family and the rest 80 belong to the hard tick family. Let us know more about the different types of ticks.

Dermacentor variabilis

Species: D. variabilis

Commonly known as American dog tick, these ticks are prevalent in the Eastern United States. The adult ticks are 3/16" long and after feeding may grow up to 1/2" long. They have variable markings on the shield. The larvae and nymph form (seed tick) feed on mice and adult ticks love to feed on dogs and larger animals.
The females can lay 6500 eggs that hatch in less than two months. These ticks can cause Rocky Mountain spotted fever and tick paralysis. Dogs can get infested with hundreds of ticks in a day, if they run through an infested meadow.

Rhipicephalus sanguineus

Species: R. sanguineus

This reddish-brown tick is commonly known as the brown dog tick. They reach a length of 1/8th" and commonly infest dogs. They are found in houses and dog kennels. Their life cycle is mostly completed living indoors. The larvae, nymph and adult ticks prefer dogs for their blood meal. They are prevalent in Arizona.

Amblyomma maculatum

Species: A. maculatum

These ticks are found mostly in the Southeastern states of America. They are commonly known as Gulf coast tick. These ticks have distinctly differentiated sexes. The larvae and nymphs make ground-dwelling birds their hosts. The adult ticks attach themselves to the ears of deer and cattle. They are small and 3/32nd of an inch long.
They are vectors of the most feared disease - the Lyme disease spirochetes. They can crawl on humans and give a painful bite. These blood sucking arthropods wave their legs in the air and detect vibrations or carbon dioxide from a passing host.
To remove a tick grasping the fur of your dog or human skin, apply a little kerosene over the tick and with a firm grasp of tweezers pull the little menace out.

Amblyomma americanum

Species: A. americanum

These ticks grow on humans and they have prevented the growth of certain areas where they are commonly found. They are known as lone star tick. The female ticks have a silvery spot on their dorsal shield, thus giving its name. They have long mouth parts that penetrate deep into the skin causing pus sores.

Ixodes scapularis

Species: I. scapularis

These ticks are dominant in the regions of Southeastern America. They are commonly found along trails, paths and roadways. The adult ticks are dark reddish-brown in color with dark brown to black legs. Therefore, commonly called black-legged tick.

Argas radiatus (Raillet)

Species: A. radiatus

These ticks attack the poultry houses and are known as common fowl ticks. They are also called tick or blue bug. They may injure or kill chickens and can also attack humans.

Rhipicephalus microplus (Boophilus microplus)

Species: R. microplus

These southern cattle tick attacks sheep, horses, goats, and cattle. It can transmit several disease-causing pathogens to the host body. This leads to death of the animals and causes several economic losses to the cattle industry.

Ornithodoros turicata

Species: O. turicata

This is a type of tick that belongs to the soft tick class. Their mouth parts are not visible from above and they mostly infect rodents. They are commonly found in rat and mouse habitats and transmit the relapsing fever in humans. Thus, commonly known as the relapsing fever tick.

Dermacentor abaensis

Species: D. abaensis

Also known as Moose ticks, Winter ticks or Elk ticks. They are known to infect moose, caribou, elk and cattle. The ticks remain attached to their host throughout their life cycle. The infected moose grooms excessively and there are patches of missing fur on its body.
They are not known to transmit diseases to their host, but severe infestation leads to death of the animal due to emaciation and hypothermia. These ticks are not known to cause any diseases in humans.

Ixodes ricinus

Species: I. ricinus

These are commonly known as the Castor bean tick or sheep tick. These hard bodied ticks are vectors for meningoencephalitis and Lyme disease in humans. They also cause louping ill in sheep.
These were a few types of ticks that can cause diseases in humans and animals. It is very important to remain alert while traveling through tick infested areas. As small as it comes, it can lead to many serious diseases. Ticks can survive for 200 days without food or water. They are known to live for 2 months to 2 years depending on the species.
Ticks can neither fly nor jump. They perch themselves and drop or fall onto a passing host. There are a few tick species that are known to follow a host by foot till they get a chance to crawl over! If you have to spend some time in the wild, better wear light-colored clothes, as it will be easier to spot these tiny menaces.
Check your elbow and knee crooks, back and ask someone to check your hair for ticks. Observe your legs and arms minutely for possible tick infestation. Visit the veterinarian for removal of dog ticks, if your pet has an infestation. Consult a doctor immediately if you have been bitten by the blood sucking vampire! It's always better to be safe than sorry.