The host preferences of Nuttalliella namaqua (Ixodoidea : Nuttalliellidae) : a generalist approach to surviving multiple host-switches

20 Feb 2014

Nuttalliella namaqua has been described as a “living fossil” and the closest extant species to the ancestral tick lineage. It was previously proposed that the Nuttalliella lineage parasitized reptile-like mammals in the Permian and had to switch hosts several times due to mass or host lineage extinctions. Extant hosts include girdled lizards and murid rodents. The current study extends knowledge on the extant host range of N. namaqua using gut meal analysis of field collected specimens. Nymphs and females can parasitize a variety of reptiles that includes skinks, geckos and girdled lizards. Blood-meal from a hyrax was also detected in a specimen suggesting that N. namaqua could parasitize a broader range of mammals than the previously suggested murid rodents. Rather than being host specific, N. namaqua is proposed to be a generalist and the ability to switch and parasitize multiple hosts allowed it to survive multiple mass and host lineage extinctions.