Infestation of small seabirds by Ornithodoros maritimus ticks: Effects on chick body condition, reproduction and associated infectious agents

Ana Sanz-Aguilar* (Corresponding Author), Ana Payo-Payo, Andreu Rotger, Lena Yousfi, Sara Moutailler, Cecile Beck, Marine Dumarest, José Manuel Igual, Miguel Ángel Miranda, Mariana Viñas Torres, Virginia Picorelli, Amandine Gamble, Thierry Boulinier

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

7 Citations (Scopus)
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Ticks can negatively affect their host by direct effects as blood feeding causing anaemia or discomfort, or by pathogen transmission. Consequently, ticks can have an important role in the population dynamics of their hosts. However, specific studies on the demographic effects of tick infestation on seabirds are still scarce. Seabird ticks have also the potential to be responsible for the circulation of little known tick-borne agents, which could have implications for non-seabird species. Here, we report the results of investigations on potential associations between soft tick Ornithodoros maritimus load and reproductive parameters of storm petrels Hydrobates pelagicus breeding in a large colony in a cave of Espartar Island, in the Balearic archipelago. We also investigated by molecular analyses the potential viral and bacterial pathogens associated with O. maritimus ticks present at the colony. Lower nestling survival was recorded in the most infested area, deep in the cave, compared to the area near the entrance. The parasite load was negatively associated with the body condition of the nestlings. One pool of ticks tested positive for West Nile virus and 4 pools tested positive for a Borrelia species which was determined by targeted nested PCR to have a 99% sequence identity with B. turicatae, a relapsing fever Borrelia. Overall, these results show that further investigations are needed to better understand the ecology and epidemiology of the interactions between ticks, pathogens and Procellariiform species.
Original languageEnglish
Article number101281
JournalTicks and Tick-borne Diseases
Issue number1
Early online date25 Aug 2019
Publication statusPublished - Jan 2020

Bibliographical note

This Project was partially funded by the Govern Balear (Acciones Especiales, AAEE031/2017) and the Spanish Ministry of Innovation and Universities (RESET, ref: CGL2017-85210-P). ASA was funded by the Spanish Ministry of Innovation and Universities Innovation and Universities, the Agencia Estatal de Investigación and the European Social Found (RYC-2017- 22796).

Data accessibility
Data will be available via the Spanish National Research Council data repository. Sanz-Aguilar, A., Payo-Payo, A., Igual, J. M., Rotger, A., Viñas Torres, M., Picorelli, V., 2019. Storm petrel data sets.

Declaration of Competing Interest
The authors declare no conflicts of interest.

We thank Esteban Cardona, Oliver Martínez, Raül Luna, Toni Avila, Esther López Marín, Miquel Mas, Enric Real y Santiago de la Vega for their help and support on the colony monitoring. Balearic Islands Government, Sant Josep City Hall, COFIB and Fundación Balearia for their logistic support.

Ethical statement
This study was authorized by the Reserves des Vedrà es Vedranell i els illots de Ponent, Balearic Government. All aspects of the study were performed according to guidelines established for the ethical treatment of animals and complied with current Spanish regulations. The collection of ticks was authorized by the Balearic Government (Reference: CAP 21/2018).


  • Borrelia
  • Mortality
  • Soft ticks
  • Storm petrels
  • Tick-borne pathogens
  • WNV


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