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5 December 2013 11:26 am ,
Vol. 342 ,
Dyslexia, a learning disability that hinders reading, hasn't been associated with deficits in vision, hearing, or...
Exotic, elusive, and dangerous, snakes have fascinated humankind for millennia. They can be hard to find, yet their...
Researchers have sequenced and analyzed the first two snake genomes, which represent two evolutionary extremes. The...
Snake venoms are remarkably complex mixtures that can stun or kill prey within minutes. But more and more researchers...
At age 30, Dutch biologist Freek Vonk has built up a respectable career as a snake scientist. But in his home country,...
Since arriving on the island of Guam in the 1940s, the brown tree snake ( Boiga irregularis ) has extirpated native...
An animal rights group known as the Nonhuman Rights Project filed lawsuits in three New York courts this week in an...
Researchers have been hot on the trail of the elusive Denisovans, a type of ancient human known only by their DNA and...
- 5 December 2013 11:26 am , Vol. 342 , #6163
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ScienceShot: How Ticks Get Under Your Skin
29 October 2013 8:15 pm
An intricate system of hooks and barbs allows the ticks responsible for much of Lyme disease in Europe to latch on to their hosts. In new research, videos reveal that before Ixodes ricinus (commonly known as the wood tick) attach themselves to a potential host, they use two flexible mouthparts called chelicerae (upper portion of image) to probe and pierce the skin. Microscopic hooks on those mouthparts help the ticks get a tentative grip. Then, by repeatedly retracting and extending the chelicerae, the bloodsucking arachnids bury a stiff, well-barbed structure called the hypostome (tongue-shaped body part at center of image) in the host’s skin. Once fully embedded in the host, the tick forms a tube by holding the chelicerae and the hypostome together, and the blood meal begins, the researchers report today in the Proceedings of the Royal Society B. To keep the host from recognizing its presence for the week or so that it takes to become fully engorged, previous studies have shown that the tick’s saliva contains a cocktail of substances that keeps the blood flowing, stifles swelling and itching, and numbs pain. Although the new study doesn’t offer any ideas for how to prevent tick bites, how the mouthparts work together to pierce skin and hold fast may offer ideas for the design of various medical devices, the researchers say.