Monday, June 20, 2016

Answer to Case 401

Answer: Dermacentor sp. ticks: an adult male and female (latter is heavily engorged) and newly-laid eggs.

We were very excited to find these eggs in the container along with the live female. Therefore, we decided to try to hatch them. Special thanks to William Nicholson and Graham Hickling who provided the necessary instructions, and to Jim, Lynn, Heather, Emily and the rest of my awesome lab staff who made it all happen. It turns out that hatching larvae from eggs is not a straight-forward process. The eggs need to be maintained around room temperature, and importantly, need to be kept in a humid environment (e.g. 80-90%). Also, they need to be monitored regularly for fungal growth which could kill them (I can provide instructions to anyone who is interested). To accomplish this, we set up the following humidity chamber:

We went through a couple of different iterations of the humidity chamber, using different solutions and containers, but eventually settled on the design shown here - a simple sealed Tupperware container with distilled water at the base. The tick eggs are in a Petri dish sealed with gas-permeable tape and elevated above the water on a used pipette tip holder).

We then patiently waited for several weeks, monitoring the eggs closely.

As a reminder, here is what the eggs shortly after being laid (May 20):


We were excited to see that they appeared to mature after ~4.5 weeks of incubation (June 17):


By June 23rd, they looked ready to hatch:

And sure enough, by the next day we had hatching larvae!



So now you may be wondering what we are going to do with all of them? Well, as cute as they are, they're still baby ticks that could be harboring human pathogens, so they will be dumped into formalin to be preserved for posterity.



3 comments:

Sigve Holmen said...

Great project! Is it likely that they harbour human pathogens given that they've never been exposed to any mammal yet? Could there be vertical transmission of vira from mother to babies?

Bobbi Pritt said...

Yes, Dermacentor can harbor rickettsial organisms, which can be transovarially tranmitted.

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