Lack of resistance against the tick **Ixodes ricinus** in two related passerine bird species
Faculty of Sciences. Biology
International journal for parasitology. - Oxford
, p. 183-191
University of Antwerp
Although many wild bird species may act as reservoir hosts for tick-transmitted diseases and/or support long-distance dispersal of infected ticks, to date no research has been done on the extent to which songbirds may acquire resistance to ixodid ticks. Here we investigate whether two passerine species belonging to the family Paridae, the blue tit (Cyanistes caeruleus) and the great tit (Parus major), are able to acquire resistance after repeated infestations with Ixodes ricinus nymphs. As blue tits are less frequently exposed to I. ricinus in the wild than great tits, we expected I. ricinus to be less adapted towards the blue tits resistance mechanisms. Over the three infestation sessions we observed consistently high tick attachment rates and yields, high engorgement weights, and short engorgement and moulting durations, indicating that neither of the two songbird species is able to mount effective immune responses against I. ricinus nymphs after repeated infestations. As a consequence of the lack of resistance, birds were unable to prevent the direct harm (acute blood depletion) caused by tick feeding. Birds compensated the erythrocyte loss without reduction in general body condition (body mass corrected for tarsus length). The lack of resistance suggests that I. ricinus has a long co-evolutionary history with both avian hosts, which enables the tick to avoid or suppress the hosts resistance responses.