Heat and vibration are common host-generated cues that ectoparasites use to orient to hosts. Three experiments evaluated effects of heat and vibration on the movement of northern fowl mite, Ornithonyssus sylviarum (Canestrini & Fanzago). Individual arrested mites in an isolation chamber always initiated movement (walking) after substrate vibration (7.8-min walking duration), but only initiated movement 50% of the time (2.8-min walking duration) upon exposure to a 3°C heat fluctuation. Heat fluctuation in combination with vibration extended the period of activity by ≈50% (11.6-min walking duration) compared with activity initiated by vibration alone. Mites with longer time off-host moved for shorter durations. In a choice test, individual mites consistently moved closer to a 35°C heat source 1 or 6 mm away, but not to a heat source 11 mm away. In a circular arena, mites were able to orient accurately to a 35°C heat source and reached the arena edge almost 4 times faster (11.2 s) than mites without a heat source (41.2 s). These results suggest that northern fowl mite is capable of directed thermo-orientation, as well as modulation of activity depending on the type of sensory information perceived. The adaptive significance of this orientation for a “permanent” ectoparasite is discussed.
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Vol. 41 • No. 5