Role of grooming in biological control of ticks

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19 Scopus citations


Although many species of wild bovids live in tick infested environments, tick loads are usually kept to very low levels, primarily by frequent self grooming. Evidence from numerous studies on antelope in Africa strongly support the concept that the delivery of bouts of grooming reflects programmed grooming rather than stimulus driven or reactive grooming. In other words, grooming occurs in response to an endogenous generator that produces grooming bouts at periodic intervals, resulting in removal of ticks before they attach and begin to feed. In the same tick exposure environment, animals that groom most have the fewest ticks. The rate of programmed grooming is modulated by a number of interspecific and intraspecific determinants. Interspecific determinants include adult body size and whether or not the evolutionary habitat is tick dense or tick sparse. Intraspecific determinants include developmental stage of growth, gender (e.g., territorial male vs. female), ectoparasite exposure, and stage of arousal. Some of the intraspecific determinants appear to be mediated by systemic physiological influences suggesting there may be ways to improve grooming activity in weak groomers, such as cattle.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)565-569
Number of pages5
JournalAnnals of the New York Academy of Sciences
StatePublished - Jan 1 2000

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Neuroscience(all)
  • Biochemistry, Genetics and Molecular Biology(all)
  • History and Philosophy of Science


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