Document Type


Date of Original Version



Background: Several investigators have reported genetic differences between northern and southern populations of Ixodes scapularis in North America, as well as differences in patterns of disease transmission. Ecological and behavioral correlates of these genetic differences, which might have implications for disease transmission, have not been reported. We compared survival of northern with that of southern genotypes under both northern and southern environmental conditions in laboratory trials.

Methods: Subadult I. scapularis from laboratory colonies that originated from adults collected from deer from several sites in the northeastern, north central, and southern U.S. were exposed to controlled conditions in environmental chambers. Northern and southern genotypes were exposed to light:dark and temperature conditions of northern and southern sites with controlled relative humidities, and mortality through time was recorded.

Results: Ticks from different geographical locations differed in survival patterns, with larvae from Wisconsin surviving longer than larvae from Massachusetts, South Carolina or Georgia, when held under the same conditions. In another experiment, larvae from Florida survived longer than larvae from Michigan. Therefore, survival patterns of regional genotypes did not follow a simple north–south gradient. The most consistent result was that larvae from all locations generally survived longer under northern conditions than under southern conditions.

Conclusions: Our results suggest that conditions in southern North America are less hospitable than in the north to populations of I. scapularis. Southern conditions might have resulted in ecological or behavioral adaptations that contribute to the relative rarity of I. scapularis borne diseases, such as Lyme borreliosis, in the southern compared to the northern United States.

Creative Commons License

Creative Commons License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 License.