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Host in reserve: the role of common shrews (Sorex araneus) as a stable supplementary source of tick hosts in small mammal communities influenced by rodent population cycles
  • Nicolas De Pelsmaeker,
  • Lars Korslund,
  • Øyvind Steifetten
Nicolas De Pelsmaeker
University of South-Eastern Norway - Campus Bø

Corresponding Author:nicolas.de.pelsmaeker@outlook.com

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Lars Korslund
University of Agder
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Øyvind Steifetten
University of South-Eastern Norway - Campus Bø
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In recent decades, warming temperatures and changes in land use are supposed to have enabled several tick species to expand their distribution limit northwards. The progression of ticks to new areas may introduce new and emerging tick-borne pathogens as well as increase existing diseases. Aside from climatic conditions, ticks are dependent on hosts for survival, and rodents often act as important hosts for ticks and as pathogen reservoirs. At northern latitudes, rodents often undergo multi-annual population cycles, and the periodic absence of hosts may inhibit the further progression of ticks. We investigated the potential role of common shrews (Sorex araneus) to serve as a stable host source to immature life stages of a generalist tick Ixodes ricinus and a specialist tick I. trianguliceps, during decreasing abundances of bank voles (Myodes glareolus). We tested whether ticks would have a propensity to parasitize a certain host type dependent on host population size and composition in two high latitude locations in southern Norway, by comparing tick burdens on trapped animals. We found that I. ricinus larvae showed an equal propensity to parasitize both host types as the host population composition changed, but voles had a higher level of parasitism by nymphs (p< 0.004). An overall larger host population size favored the parasitism of voles by larvae (p= 0.027), but not by nymphs (p= 0.074). I. trianguliceps larvae showed a higher propensity to parasitize shrews, regardless of host population size or composition (p= 0.004), while nymphs parasitized shrews more as vole abundance increased (p= 0.002). The results indicate that common shrews may have the potential to act as a replacement host during periods of low rodent availability, but long-term observations encompassing complete rodent cycles may determine whether shrews are able to maintain tick range expansion despite low rodent availability.
20 Oct 2021Submitted to Ecology and Evolution
21 Oct 2021Submission Checks Completed
21 Oct 2021Assigned to Editor
21 Oct 2021Reviewer(s) Assigned
21 Nov 2021Review(s) Completed, Editorial Evaluation Pending
29 Nov 2021Editorial Decision: Revise Minor
06 Mar 20221st Revision Received
07 Mar 2022Submission Checks Completed
07 Mar 2022Assigned to Editor
07 Mar 2022Review(s) Completed, Editorial Evaluation Pending
13 Mar 2022Editorial Decision: Accept