Data from: Towards an evolutionary understanding of questing behaviour in the tick Ixodes ricinus

  • Joseph Tomkins (Creator)
  • Jennifer Aungier (Creator)
  • Wade Nelson Hazel (Creator)
  • Lucy Gilbert (Creator)



The tick Ixodes ricinus finds its hosts by climbing vegetation and adopting a sit-and-wait tactic. This “questing” behaviour is known to be temperature-dependent, such that questing increases with temperature up to a point where the vapor pressure deficit (drying effect) forces ticks down to rehydrate in the soil or mat layer. Little if any attention has been paid to understanding the questing of ticks from an evolutionary perspective. Here we ask whether populations from colder climatic conditions respond differently in terms of the threshold temperature for questing and the rate of response to a fixed temperature. We find significant variation between populations in the temperature sensitivity of questing, with populations from cooler climates starting questing at lower temperatures than populations from warmer temperatures. Cool climate populations also quest sooner when the temperature is held constant. These patterns are consistent with local adaptation to temperature either through direct selection or acclimation and challenge the use of fixed thresholds for questing in modeling the spread of tick populations. Our results also show how both time and temperature play a role in questing, but we are unable to explain the relationship in terms of degree-time used to model Arthropod development. We find that questing in response to temperature fits well with a quantitative genetic model of the conditional strategy, which reveals how selection on questing may operate and hence may be of value in understanding the evolutionary ecology of questing.
Date made available21 Oct 2014
Geographical coverageEurope


  • Environmental threshold
  • Lyme Disease
  • Conditional Strategy

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