Can Red-Backed Salamanders (Plethodon cinereus) Reduce the Abundance of Blacklegged Ticks (Ixodes scapularis)?
Date of Submission
Academic Programs and Concentrations
Environmental and Urban Studies
Project Advisor 1
Blacklegged ticks (Ixodes scapularis) cause more human illness in North America than any other arthropod species. They are vectors of Lyme disease, babesiosis, human granulocytic anaplasmosis, and deer tick virus, a strain of Powassan encephalitis virus. One potentially important method for lowering human risk of acquiring these diseases is the reduction of tick abundance. While there have been numerous studies on methods to reduce tick abundance, no research has been conducted to determine if the red-backed salamander (Plethodon cinereus), one of the most abundant forest floor predators, is a natural predator of ticks. In this study, I investigated the red-backed salamander’s ability to reduce blacklegged tick abundance in order to decrease human disease risk. I examined food preferences of red-backed salamanders to determine if salamanders prey on adult blacklegged ticks in both laboratory and field settings. I found that red-backed salamanders eat blacklegged ticks in laboratory settings. Ticks were preferred to ladybugs and pillbugs, and there was no difference in preference between ticks, crickets, and mealworms. More field research is needed to determine if salamanders eat ticks in their natural habitats, but based on my laboratory results, salamanders could have important ecological roles in the predatory reduction of blacklegged ticks.
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Gillen, Jennifer Lynn, "Can Red-Backed Salamanders (Plethodon cinereus) Reduce the Abundance of Blacklegged Ticks (Ixodes scapularis)?" (2014). Senior Projects Spring 2014. 246.
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