Common names: Bont-legged tick; shiny hyalomma, small smooth bont-legged tick, African bont-legged tick (Eng.); bontpootjie-bosluis (Afr.)

Bont-legged ticks are blood-sucking arthropods that parasitise a variety of mammals, from hares and rodents (immatures stages) to large herbivores such as cattle, goats, sheep, camels and wild herbivores. They also feed on the blood of birds. Bont-legged ticks can cause a variety of health problems in humans if they bite them.

Description/How to recognize bont-legged tick

There are 25 species of bont-legged ticks in the genus Hyalomma. They have lengthy palps and hypostomes and are dark-brown or black in colour. These inornate ticks are well adapted to arid conditions, and have beady eyes and banded legs.

Getting around
Hyalomma truncatum ticks move by crawling slowly on their hosts or on vegetation. To travel longer distances, they attach themselves on their hosts species, where they will pierce the skin with their mouthparts and feed on the blood of their host, while being transported around by the host.

Communicating

Communicating is done through sensing of chemical signals, which are classified into two types, namely the arrestment pheromone (arrestants) and sex pheromones.

Distribution

Hyalomma truncatum is widespread in arid and semi-arid regions of eastern, central and southern Africa.

Habitat

The tick is adapted to dry environments and areas of little vegetation where it lives in or around livestock housing.

Food

They feed on blood from their hosts (including birds, cattle, sheep, goats, pigs, horses and camels).

SEX and LIFE CYCLES

Depending on the hosts species, Hyalomma truncatum has both two- and three-host life cycles. Domestic and wild herbivores are preferred by the tick. Hares and rodents are preferred food for immature stages. Adults may be seen in large numbers in the late summer after the rains, and immature stages can be found in the dry fall and spring months.

Family life:


Image: Alan Walker

THE BIG PICTURE 

Friends and Foes

Hyalomma truncatum serve as food for many animals, including chickens, other birds and reptiles, as well as amphibians. Some birds such as Red-billed and Yellow-billed Oxpeckers specialise in feeding on ticks, and these birds can often be seen in association with large herbivores where they perch on the animals and pick in their ears or anywhere where they can find ticks. Hyalomma truncatum is a known disease vector – it transmits diseases of human and animals, including the Crimean-Congo Haemorrhagic Fever virus, anaplasmosis, and babesiosis.

Smart Strategies

Generally, the tick hides in woody or bushy areas to make it easy to hide themselves, making it easy to reach out with their legs and crawl onto a host.

Poorer world without me

They benefit the moist, dark ecosystems in which they live by serving as a food source for many reptiles, birds and amphibians. They also help control wild animal populations. Scientists even use them as indicators of the health and stability of ecosystems.

People & I

Hyalomma truncatum can bite humans and cause itching, pain, inflammation, redness and swelling at the site of the bite. The tick is known to transmit Crimean-Congo Haemorrhagic Fever (CCHF) virus to humans.

Conservation status and what the future holds

Hyalomma truncatum ticks are currently not listed on the IUCN Red List.

RELATIVES

The genus Hyalomma, bont-legged ticks, comprises 25 species that have long palps and hypostomes. It is closely related to Hyalomma albiparmatum and Hyalomma  nitidum

Scientific Name and Classification:
Kingdom: Animalia
Phylum: Arthropoda
Class: Arachnida
Order: Ixodida
Family: Ixodidae
Genus: Hyalomma
Species: H. truncatum Koch, 1844

References and further reading

  • Chhillar, S., Chhilar, J.S. & Kaur, H., 2014, ‘Investigations on some hard ticks (Acari: Ixodidae) infesting domestic buffalo and cattle from Haryana, India’, J Entomol Zool Stud, 2(4), 99–104.
  • Hoogstraal, H., 1956, African ixodoidea Vol. 1 Ticks of the Sudan, US Naval Medical Research Unit No. 3, Cairo, Egypt.
  • James, A.M., Freier, J.E., Keirans, J.E., Durden, L.A., Mertins, J.W., & Schlater, J.L., 2006, ‘Distribution, seasonality, and hosts of the Rocky Mountain wood tick in the United States’, Journal of Medical Entomology, 43(1), 17–24.
  • Magano, S.R., Els, D.A., & Chown, S.L., 2000, ‘Feeding patterns of immature stages of Hyalomma truncatum and Hyalomma marginatum rufipes on different hosts’, Experimental & Applied Acarology, 24(4), 301–313.
  • Nchu, F. & Rand, A., 2013, ‘Rift Valley fever outbreaks: possible implication of Hyalomma truncatum (Acari: Ixodidae)’, African Journal of Microbiology Research, 7, 3891–3894.
  • Walker, A.R., 2003, Ticks of domestic animals in Africa: a guide to identification of species, Bioscience Reports: Edinburgh.

Author: Nozipho Khumalo
E-mail: N.Khumalo@sanbi.org.za

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