Ticks from the Gulf Coast
Over the last few weeks, we've had some interesting submissions. Specifically, two submissions from the Greater Toronto Area. They were labelled by the submitters as American dog ticks (Dermacentor variabilis) with photos attached (see left two photos below).
From left to right: Gulf coast tick adult female, Gulf coast tick adult male, American dog tick adult female
It's easy to see why these were labelled as American dog ticks (see American dog tick photo on the right above). The submissions have ornate (patterned) scutums just like American dog ticks. However, the patterning is slightly different, with a silvery appearance. Most striking are the long thin palps. American dog ticks have short, broad palps.
The two tick submissions are Gulf Coast ticks, Amblyomma maculatum. As the name suggests, this tick species resides around the Gulf Coast in the United States and is rarely seen more north. We've had a few submissions of this tick earlier in the year - but these were associated with travel to the southern United States. The two recent ones did not have travel history.
So what does this mean? Probably nothing, but we don't know. These ticks are occasionally introduced by migratory birds. A paper published by Nelder and colleagues in 2014 provided data on ticks submitted by the public to Public Health Ontario from 2008 to 2012. Numbers of Gulf Coast ticks ranged from 0 in 2009 to 7 in 2012, with other years having 1 or 2 submissions.
We wanted to write this blog to increase awareness of this tick and make sure that pet owners and veterinarians are aware of the differences between this tick and the American dog tick. If the tick is continually being misidentified, then we will not know if we are seeing more of this species or not.
As always, continue to submit your ticks. Attach a photo or send in your tick whenever possible, especially if you are unsure. If your photo is a large file and you cannot attach it to the online form, feel free to email it to us at firstname.lastname@example.org.