The blacklegged tick, Ixodes scapularis Say, a vector for the agents of Lyme borreliosis and other diseases, has expanded its range dramatically over the past 20 yr. However, the relative contributions of different vertebrate host species to this expansion have remained largely unexplored. To address this issue, we simulated the expansion of a theoretical tick population across a simple landscape by using a deterministic, spatially explicit, cellular automata model. The model incorporates the ecology of ticks and three vertebrate hosts: white-tailed deer, Odocoileus virginianus Zimmermann; white-footed mouse, Peromyscus leucopus Rafinesque; and American robin, Turdus migratorius L. Host contribution to tick dispersal is modeled as a function of tick burden, home range size, and population density. These parameters were determined using published and unpublished data. Our results suggest that 1) hosts with high tick burdens and large home ranges (e.g., deer) play a critical role in I. scapularis range expansion; 2) hosts with small home ranges (e.g., mice) can limit range expansion if they divert a sufficient number of ticks from feeding on more mobile hosts; and (3) birds that migrate annually (e.g., robins) can play a crucial role in tick range expansion.
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Vol. 41 • No. 5