Ticks are quite dangerous and unpleasant animals that become active in the warm season. They are representatives of the most ancient inhabitants of our planet, survived the dinosaurs. Evolution has practically no effect on these animals, they have survived unchanged, and they live remarkably in the modern world. Both animals and people are chosen as their prey.
Species origin and description
The tick belongs to arachnid animals that feed on the blood of animals and humans. Nowadays, there are a huge number of varieties of this species, up to 40 thousand.
But two species play a significant epidemiological role:
- taiga tick – its habitat is Asian and partially European part of the continents;
- European forest mite – the habitat is the European mainland of the planet.
To this day, scientists have not come to a consensus on where exactly ticks came from and from whom they originated. The main thing is that over a million years of evolution, they have practically not changed. The fossil tick is very similar to the modern primitive.
The main hypotheses for the origin of ticks today are the following:
- Neotenic origin. Ticks could originate from chelicerate animals, which were many times larger, but were at an early stage of their development;
- origin from floating larvae of creatures that were unable to move and did not have a central nerve rod;
- came about by truncating the life cycle of an animal that was more specialized.
The latter hypothesis even found direct confirmation. So, a chelicerate animal was found with a clutch of hatched eggs. The larvae of these eggs are very reminiscent of ticks, incl. have the same number of legs.
Appearance and Features
The size of the tick is small, depending on the type of animal, it ranges from 0.1 mm to 0.5 mm. Since ticks are arachnids, they do not have wings. An adult tick has 8 legs, while an immature individual has 6.
The legs have claws and suckers, with which the ticks are attached to plants. The animal has no eyes, so a well-developed sensory apparatus helps it to navigate. Each type of tick has its own color, habitat and lifestyle.
An interesting fact: the sensory apparatus of the tick, which is located on the limbs, makes it possible for him to smell the smell of the victim for 10 m.
The body structure of the tick is leathery. His head and chest are fused, and the head is fixed to the body motionlessly. Armored ticks breathe with the help of a special spiracle.
Ticks are quite voracious, but in dangerous situations they can be without food for up to 3 years. Eating abundantly, ticks increase in weight by more than 100 times.
Interesting fact: To see a tick with the naked eye is quite difficult. For example, three ticks put together will be the size of a punctuation point.
On average, the development cycle of a tick lasts from 3 to 5 years. During this long period, ticks allow themselves only 3 meals.
Where does the tick live?
Ticks can be found anywhere on the planet. All climatic zones are suitable for their life, regardless of the continent, weather conditions and temperature regimes.
The most grassy place that does not inspire confidence from the outside can be absolutely safe, and vice versa, a well-groomed and ennobled park with landscaping can be overpopulated with ticks and potentially dangerous.
After all, the presence of benches and cut grass does not guarantee the absence of ticks and does not protect from encephalitis. There is a very common belief that ticks live on trees and wait for their victims right there, rushing at them right from the branches.
But this is a fairly common myth that has nothing to do with reality. Ticks live in the grass and as close to the ground as possible. Tick larvae are on the grass at a height of 30 centimeters to one meter. Ticks themselves sit on the inner sides of plant leaves next to pedestrian roads and animal paths and cling to anyone who touches this very plant.
According to statistics, an adult tick usually bites on the lower body: legs, buttocks, groin . But the vast majority of children are bitten in the head and neck area. But, in both cases, there are bites on both the arms and the torso.
What does the tick eat?
Ticks differ between
On this basis, they can be divided into two groups:
Saprophages eat organic remains. That is why such mites are recognized as very useful for nature and humanity, since they make a certain contribution to the creation of humus. However, there are saprophagous mites that feed on plant sap. These are parasite mites. This type of animal brings great harm to agriculture, as it can destroy the crops.
There are mites that eat exfoliated particles of human skin – the epidermis. Such mites are called dust or scabies. Granary mites are suitable for feeding on plant residues that decompose, incl. rotting flour and grain.
For a subcutaneous tick, the ideal option is the subcutaneous fat that it takes in human hair follicles, and for the ear tick, the fat of the ear canals. Predatory mites parasitize other animals and plants. With the help of legs, a blood-sucking tick attaches to its prey, and then purposefully moves to the place of feeding.
An interesting fact: A blood-sucking tick can choose its relative, a herbivorous tick, as its victim.
Character and lifestyle features
Ticks begin to become active in the middle – late spring, namely in late April, early May. For their awakening, it is necessary that the earth warms up to three to five degrees. And this continues until the end of August, the beginning of September, until the temperature of the earth drops to the same mark. The population and density of ticks directly depends on weather conditions. If the summer was not hot and with a lot of rain, and the winter was snowy and not severe, then next year the population and density of the tick will increase.
The female tick, after sucking blood in early summer or late spring, lays eggs from which larvae will appear, but they will bite someone only the next year. But, the larva or nymph, which sucked blood from the host this year, passes to the next phase of development also this year. After a tick has chosen a prey and sucked on it, it can take about twelve hours before it starts sucking blood. On the human body, ticks prefer places with hairy areas, as well as places behind the ears, knees and elbows.
Due to the fact that ticks have saliva with an anesthetic effect and anticoagulants in their arsenal, their bite is invisible to the host. The maximum duration of sucking blood by a tick is fifteen minutes. Depending on the species, the life expectancy of ticks also varies. Dust mites live from 65 to 80 days, but mites living in the taiga live for about four years. And without food, depending on the species, ticks live from one month to three years.
Now you know how dangerous a tick bite is. Let's see how they reproduce in the wild.
Social structure and reproduction
Ticks reproduce in different ways, depending on the type of animal. Most mites are oviparous. Live-bearing individuals are less common. Individuals are clearly divided into females and males.
The following stages of animal development are distinguished:
- eggs. In the warm period of time, the female, after full saturation with blood, lays eggs. The average clutch consists of 3,000 eggs. The shape of the eggs can be different, both oval and round. The size of the egg as a percentage of the body of the female is not small;
- larva. The larva hatches from the egg in a couple of weeks. It immediately looks like an adult tick, the only difference being its size as it is smaller. The larvae lead an active lifestyle in warm weather. They choose small animals as their prey. Full saturation with blood occurs within 3-6 days, and then the larva disappears;
- nymph. Her tick becomes after the first good nutrition. It exceeds the size of the larva and has 8 limbs. The speed of her movement increases significantly, so she can choose large animals as her victims. Often as a nymph, most ticks survive cold times;
- an adult. A year later, the nymph develops into an adult, female or male.
An interesting fact: The fertility of a female tick is 17,000 eggs.
Tick's natural enemies
Ticks occupy one of the lowest positions in the food chain. What is a horror and a nightmare for a person, for birds and others that feed on them, this is a holiday. There are many means to combat ticks created by man. But nature itself has succeeded in this. There are a considerable number of insects and animals that feed on them or lay eggs in them. Spiders, frogs, lizards, wasps, dragonflies, this is not a complete list of those, it sees in a tick not a danger, but food.
In the same way, fungi also kill ticks, causing various kinds of fungal infections and diseases. Based on this information, you need to understand that mass poisoning of a tick or burning of grass is a disaster, because the natural balance will be disturbed, and this will lead to death, both of the ticks themselves and of the species that feed on them.
And here, after sweeping away the natural enemy from hunger, a new tick may appear and develop even more strongly on the remaining sections of the surviving grass. Also, when burning grass, they also burn coffin spores that infect the tick and prevent them from multiplying and infect them with deadly infections. And plus, after burning, new grass grows, even softer and better than the previous one, which certainly has a positive effect on the growth of the tick population.
Population and species status
Ticks are very unpretentious. The methods of their distribution determine their widest habitat on the planet. Even despite their microscopic size, it is precisely because mites are parasites that they can easily travel great distances on another animal. While they themselves can move no more than a couple of meters.
The ixodid tick settled in the temperate zone of Eurasia. The taiga and dog ticks live in Siberia. They also settled in the regions of the Far East and the Baltic. Currently, the fauna is represented by 40 thousand varieties of ticks. The most popular are ixodid ticks (encephalitic). In total, there are 680 species of ixodid ticks, but two species play the most important epidemiological function: taiga and European forest.
Every year, the population of ticks around the world is growing. Why this happens is not known to this day. Scientists all over the world cannot find the reason for the increase in the number of ticks. Burning stubble and reducing the intensity of agriculture do not affect the growth or decline of the population. At optimal temperature and humidity levels, mites can be very hardy, so exterminating this species is extremely problematic.
Interesting fact: An adult tick can live without food for about a year.
A tick is a microscopic, cold-blooded, blood-sucking animal that can be found all over the world today. Any animal is suitable as a victim. However, there are vegetarian mites that feed on plant sap. Every year the population of these animals is growing, which creates a great risk for spreading diseases carried by ticks among the population. Ticks are very dangerous, so humanity is looking for methods to combat their spread.