Ornithodoros rostratus is an argasid tick and its importance is based on its hematophagy and the resulting transmission of pathogens such as Rickettsia rickettsii and Coxiella burnetii unto its vertebrate hosts. In the face of a lack of physiological studies related to hematophagy in argasid ticks, this paper aims to identify and characterize the events that occur throughout the feeding by O. rostratus on live hosts. Electrical signals and alterations on the feeding site were monitored using intravital microscopy and electromyography. The analyses allowed for the characterization of four distinct events: suction, salivation, chelicerae movements, and inactivity. Feeding was divided into two distinct phases: 1- penetration of mouthparts (when only salivation and chelicerae movements occurred) and the formation of the feeding pool (salivation and chelicerae movements with the first signs of suction) and 2 - engorgement during which chelicerae movements ceased and blood intake took place in feeding complexes (salivation followed by suction). Variations in patterns of the electrical signals, suction frequency, and salivation showed four distinct sub phases: 2a – Suction with electrical signals of irregular shape, increased suction frequency and decreased salivation frequency throughout blood feeding; 2b – Suction with electrical signals of symmetrical shape, high suction rates (3.8 Hz on average) and feeding complexes lasting for 7.7 seconds; 2c - Suction with electrical signals of irregular shape, high suction frequency and feeding complex lasting 11.5 seconds; 2d - Electrical signals with no profile and longest feeding complexes (14.5 seconds). Blood feeding ended with the withdrawal of the mouthparts from the host's skin.
- Received June 6, 2016.
- Accepted September 7, 2016.
- © 2016. Published by The Company of Biologists Ltd