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Microtomography of the Baltic amber tick Ixodes succineus reveals affinities with the modern Asian disease vector Ixodes ovatus

  • Background: Fossil ticks are extremely rare, whereby Ixodes succineus Weidner, 1964 from Eocene (ca. 44-49 Ma) Baltic amber is one of the oldest examples of a living hard tick genus (Ixodida: Ixodidae). Previous work suggested it was most closely related to the modern and widespread European sheep tick Ixodes ricinus (Linneaus, 1758). Results: Restudy using phase contrast synchrotron x-ray tomography yielded images of exceptional quality. These confirm the fossil's referral to Ixodes Latreille, 1795, but the characters resolved here suggest instead affinities with the Asian subgenus Partipalpiger Hoogstraal et al., 1973 and its single living (and medically significant) species Ixodes ovatus Neumann, 1899. We redescribe the amber fossil here as Ixodes (Partipalpiger) succineus. Conclusions: Our data suggest that Ixodes ricinus is unlikely to be directly derived from Weidner's amber species, but instead reveals that the Partipalpiger lineage was originally more widely distributed across the northern hemisphere. The closeness of Ixodes (P.) succineus to a living vector of a wide range of pathogens offers the potential to correlate its spatial and temporal position (northern Europe, nearly 50 million years ago) with the estimated origination dates of various tick-borne diseases.

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Author:Jason Dunlop, Dmitry Apanaskevich, Jens Lehmann, Rene HoffmannORCiD, Florian Fusseis, Moritz Ehlke, Stefan ZachowORCiD, Xianghui Xiao
Document Type:Article
Parent Title (English):BMC Evolutionary Biology
Date of first Publication:2016/10/10
Published in:BMC Evolutionary Biology
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