Date of Submission

Spring 2019

Academic Programs and Concentrations

Biology

Project Advisor 1

Felicia Keesing

Abstract/Artist's Statement

Ticks are vectors for several serious diseases, including Lyme disease, babesiosis, and anaplasmosis. My research focuses on the Haller’s organ (HO): a chemosensory organ exclusive to ticks that is thought to detect pheromones, carbon dioxide, and infrared radiation (IR) in some species, allowing them to orient toward their hosts, including humans. Many methods of tick-borne disease prevention that are currently utilized not only harm ticks but also other organisms that they are not intended to affect. Knowing the characteristics of the Haller’s organ might provide us with alternative ways to prevent ticks from locating hosts without off-target effects on other species or systems. Despite the implications of this research, a limited amount of research has been done on the Haller’s organ. A previous study suggested that in American dog ticks (Dermacentor variabilis), the Haller’s organ is responsible for infrared light detection, i.e heat detection. I studied the ability of the Haller’s organ to detect infrared light in blacklegged ticks (Ixodes scapularis), the most common tick in the northeastern United States. To determine the ability of blacklegged ticks to detect infrared radiation, I collected local blacklegged ticks, separated them into groups with their Haller’s organs intact (HO+) or removed (HO-), then exposed each individual from each group to infrared light and recorded the distance that each tick moved towards the source of the infrared radiation. Intentional movement towards the infrared light source was tested on a constructed runway with start and finish lines. I found that the ticks with their Haller’s organs present traveled significantly farther than those without their Haller’s organs when the infrared light source was on. When the infrared light source was off, ticks moved randomly and not as far towards the infrared light source whether or not they had an intact Haller’s organ. Blacklegged ticks are able to detect infrared radiation at close distances, which makes the Haller’s organ in this species a potential target for disease prevention.

Open Access Agreement

On-Campus only

Creative Commons License

Creative Commons License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works 4.0 License.

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