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The prevalence of Lyme disease increases with abundance of deer ticks (Ixodes scapularis), and so tick population control is integral to Lyme control. As tick populations increase, identifying potential methods of control, such as predation, becomes pertinent. Red- backed salamanders (Plethodon cinerus) are highly abundant insectivores present in leaf litter habitat shared with ticks, and so may have a relevant impact on controlling Ixodes tick populations. In this project, I assessed salamander prey preference for ticks through foraging experiments and diet choice experiments. Additionally, I analyzed the prey availability conditions under which salamanders would be most likely to consume ticks using an optimal foraging model. The results of these experiments indicate that salamanders do eat ticks, and may forage preferentially on ticks when abundance is high in relation to other prey. Because of the predatory role salamanders serve, conservation of salamanders and their habitat may be necessary to preventing further increases in tick abundance, ultimately decreasing Lyme disease transmission.
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Caponera, Virginia Ida, "The Insectivore's Dilemma: An assessment of the potential impact of red-backed salamander predation on tick populations" (2017). Senior Projects Spring 2017. 110.
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