Bulletin 42 - November 1990: Bulletin 42 November 1990: Ticks


by J.N.B. Brown

Order: Acarine
Superfamily: Ixodoidea
Family: Argasidae

A few weeks ago, while photographing the flowers on a Leptadenia pyrotechnica bush, I was suddenly aware of a number of small creatures heading directly towards me over the sand. As they approached my feet, I stepped about one meter to the side and they all almost immediately resumed a steady track directly towards me. I moved several times, and as the same thing happened, I realized that they had some form of homing device. They were obviously waiting for any form of animal that passed by.

Closer inspection revealed that they were ticks. The largest tick in a selection of 20 specimens was 5.5 mm long and 3.75 mm at its widest point. The body was dark brown with eight light brown colored legs. Shape is generally as the attached sketch.

Ticks are creatures that suck blood for food from warm-blooded animals. In this part of the world, different species have been found on the fox, hare, hedgehog, wild cat, jerboa, gerbil, bat, spiny-mouse, Socotra cormorant and other seabirds, domestic cat and dog, chicken, camel, sheep, goat and humans.

A total of 15 species have been identified from Oman. Unfortunately, there are no keys available to identify our ticks, several of which have been preserved as a reference. I encountered more of what I believe to be the same species in Jebel Dhanna. On this occasion, I suffered three rather large bites close together in the soft flesh around my midriff, but could not be sure they were tick bites. I did not have any adverse reaction to the bites.

One tick, Ornithodorus (Alectorobis) muesebecki Hoogstraal, was discovered in the nest of Socotra cormorants some years ago. The tick was identified with Zirga virus, which was believed responsible for the fever, headache and itch, suffered by persons bitten by this creature.

How many species of ticks are there in the UAE? How do they locate food animals? Is it by heat sensing, smell or eyesight? If you see any ticks during your travels, please try to collect some in a screw-topped jar for identification.


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