Sampling scale and season influence the observed relationship between the density of deer and questing Ixodes ricinus nymphs

Dickinson, E. R., Millins, C. and Biek, R. (2020) Sampling scale and season influence the observed relationship between the density of deer and questing Ixodes ricinus nymphs. Parasites and Vectors, 13, 493. (doi: 10.1186/s13071-020-04369-8) (PMID:32993763) (PMCID:PMC7526098)

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BACKGROUND:The relationship between environmentally transmitted tick parasites, Ixodes spp., and their main reproductive host, deer, is generally thought to be positive. However, measuring host abundance and density directly can be challenging and indirect methods are often used. The observed relationship between the parasite and host may be affected by sampling scale and season, which could lead to different inferences being made. Here, we aimed to test the effect of sampling scale and season on the relationship between density of deer and the density of questing Ixodes ricinus nymphs. METHODS:The density of deer (primarily Dama dama) was estimated using line transect distance sampling of deer dung quantified in different seasons (winter and summer) and measured at three different nested scales (site, transect and observation level). Questing nymph density was measured using blanket drag methods and estimates were calculated at the same scales as deer density estimates. General linear models were used to evaluate the relationship between questing nymphs, deer density and other environmental variables at each sampling scale and each season deer density was measured at. RESULTS:While a positive relationship between deer density and questing nymph density was detected at the site and transect scale, no relationship was apparent at the observation level. This was likely due to increased variation and reduced precision of deer dung counts at the finest sampling scale. Seasonal changes in deer populations were observed likely reflecting seasonal shifts in habitat usage. The summer estimates of deer density explained questing nymph density whereas winter estimates did not. CONCLUSIONS:Our results show that the scale of sampling can affect the detectability of the positive association between host and vector species. Furthermore, such associations can be obscured if hosts exhibit seasonal changes in habitat use. Thus, both sampling scale and season are important to consider when investigating the relationship between host and vector species.

Item Type:Articles
Glasgow Author(s) Enlighten ID:Dickinson, Ms Eleanor and Biek, Professor Roman and Millins, Dr Caroline
Authors: Dickinson, E. R., Millins, C., and Biek, R.
College/School:College of Medical Veterinary and Life Sciences > School of Biodiversity, One Health & Veterinary Medicine
Journal Name:Parasites and Vectors
ISSN (Online):1756-3305
Copyright Holders:Copyright © 2020 The Authors
First Published:First published in Parasites and Vectors 13:493
Publisher Policy:Reproduced under a Creative Commons licence

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