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Ticks are vectors of various human diseases with over 60,000 cases reported in New York State between 2004 and 2016. The Haller's organ, a sensory structure unique to ticks and mites, is thought to aid in the detection of potential host organisms, including humans. My project aims to study whether the Haller's organ is involved in tick detection of carbon dioxide. Experimental groups were comprised of Ixodes scapularis, commonly known as Black-legged ticks, which had the Haller's organ removed from their first pair of legs. Control ticks had an equally sized portion of their hind legs removed to control for potential effects of surgery. Ticks were tested on their ability to detect a CO2 gradient via measures of total distance traveled and achieved proximity to the CO2 source. While the absence of the Haller’s organs had no significant effect on total distance, ticks moved significantly less in the presence of the CO2 treatment, suggesting that the methods used in the CO2 setup might have affected the results. Interestingly, in the presence of CO2, ticks with their Haller’s organs achieved significantly greater proximity to the CO2 source than those without. Sex had no effect on any of the observed patterns. These results would suggest that the Haller's organ affects a tick's ability to detect host CO2 emissions. These findings may contribute to novel methods of tick management and disease prevention. Future studies should include larger sample sizes and test different CO2 sources and gradients to shed more light on the role of the Haller’s organ on tick CO2 and host detection.
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Morales, Jarlenne, "Removing black-legged tick (Ixodes scapularis) Haller's organs affects their ability to detect a carbon dioxide gradient" (2019). Senior Projects Spring 2019. 10.
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