Tick-host relationships as determined from wildlife in the United Arab Emirates (Acarina, Fam. Ixodidae) - a preliminary study

From Tribulus magazine . . .

Tick-host relationships as determined from wildlife in the United Arab Emirates (Acarina, Fam. Ixodidae) - a preliminary study

by Peter L. Cunningham and Kevin Thompson


Ticks of the family Ixodidae were collected from wildlife during live trapping for captive breeding purposes in the United Arab Emirates. Rhipicephalus (rhipicephalus) sanguineus Latreille, 1806 (Brown Dog Tick) was collected from Blanford's FoxVulpes cana, Sand cat Felis margarita, Brandt's Hedgehog Paraechinus hypomelas, Ethiopian Hedgehog Paraechinus aethiopicus, Spiny Mouse Acomys cahirinus dimidiatus and Wagner's Gerbil Gerbillus dasyurus. Rhipicephalus (rhipicephalus) turanicus Pomerantsev 1936 (Turanian rhipicephaline) was also collected from Ethiopian Hedgehog Paraechinus aethiopicus.


The tick fauna of Arabia has been well documented for domestic animals (Hoogstraal, Buttiker and Wassef 1983; Papadopoulos, Buttiker, Morel & Aeschlimann 1991; Osborne 1996; Wassef, Buttiker & Gallagher 1997). Ticks associated with wildlife, however, are more difficult to obtain and are therefore relatively unknown. Information on tick fauna for the United Arab Emirates is limited, especially for wildlife. This present study focusses on ticks obtained from a variety of wildlife during live capture for captive breeding purposes by staff of the Centre for Endangered Arabian Wildlife, Sharjah, UAE.


Ticks were collected from various mammals during trapping excursions throughout the UAE. Specimens were preserved in 96% alcohol for later identification. The ticks were identified with the use of dissection microscope and identification keys. The keys used were derived from Hoogstraal, Wassef and Buttiker (1981). Ticks were retrieved from the following mammal hosts: Vulpes cana, Felis margarita, Paraechinus hypomelas, Paraechinus aethiopicus, Acomys (c.) dimidiatus and Gerbillus dasyurus.

Results and Discussion

Blanford's foxVulpes cana are host to Rhipicephalus (rhipicephalus) sanguineus. Adult male and female ticks were collected on both sexes of V. cana. R.r. sanguineus have previously been collected on Red fox Vulpes vulpes arabica, Ruppell's sand fox Vulpes ruepelli sabaea, Domestic dog Canis familiaris, Domestic goat Capra hircus and humanHomo sapiens (Hoogstraal, Wassef & Buttiker 1981; Papadopolus, Buttiker, Morel & Aeschlimann 1991; Yates 1992; Fisher 1997; Wassef, Buttiker & Gallagher 1997). Due to the limited data available for V. cana from the UAE, external parasites have not previously been documented for this species. The discovery of R.r. sanguineus from V. cana does not come as a surprise, as V.v. arabica and other canine hosts can occur in habitat frequented by V. cana. Ticks identified from six mammal species are presented in Table 1. Sand cat Felis margarita are host to Rhipicephalus (rhipicephalus) sanguineus. Adult male and female nymph R.r. sanguineus ticks were collected from a male F. margarita specimen. R.r. sanguineus have been previously collected from F. margarita, Arabian leopard Panthera pardus nimr and Domestic cat Felis domesticus (Wassef, Buttiker & Gallagher 1997).

Brandt's hedgehog (Paraechinus hypomelas) are hosts to Rhipicephalus (rhipicephalus) sanguineus. Adult male and female R.r. sanguineus ticks were collected from both sexes of P. hypomelas. R.r. sanguineus have previously been documented for Ethiopian hedgehogs Paraechinus aethiopicus, European hedgehog Erinaceus concolor and long-eared hedgehog Hemiechinus auritus ( Hoogstraal, Wassef & Buttiker 1981; Schoenfeld & Yom-Tov 1985). No reference could be found confirming the presence of R.r. sanguineus ticks from Paraechinus hypomelas.

Ethiopian hedgehogs Paraechinus aethiopicus are host to R. r. sanguineus and Rhipicephalus (rhipicephalus) turanicus. Adult female R. r. sanguineus and adutl as well as nymph stages of both sexes of R. r. turanicus were collected from male P. aethiopicus. R. r. sanguineus have previously been documented from Paraechinus aethiopicus (Hoogstraal, Wassef & Buttiker 1981). R. r. turanicus have not, however, been documented previously from P. aethiopicus.

R. r. turanicus have been previously documented to occur in the UAE on Cape hare Lepus capensis omanensis ( Wassef, Buttiker & Gallagher 1997). R. r. turanicus have also been documented from King jird Meriones rex and Red fox V. v. arabica in Saudi Arabia (Hoogstraal, Wassef & Buttiker 1981 and Wassef, Buttiker and Gallagher 1997). Domestic species such as cat, dog, goat and sheep have also been documented as hosts to this tick species. Spiny mouse Acomys cahirinus dimidiatus are host to Rhipicephalus (rhipicephalus) sanguineus. Adult female ticks were collected from both sexes of A.(c.) dimidiatus. Rhipicephalus sp. have previously been documented for Acomys (c.) dimidiatus subsp. in Saudi Arabia. They were not, however, identified, due to a lack of satisfactory studies to establish reliable diagnostic criteria (Hoogstraal, Wassef & Buttiker 1981).

Wagner's Gerbil Gerbillus dasyurus are host to Rhipicephalus sp. Adult female ticks were found on both sexes of G. dasyurus, although it was not possible to identify the Rhipicephalus species. R. r. sanguineus nymphs have previously been noted to occur on G. dasyurus (Hoogstraal, Wassef & Buttiker 1981). Further study of these ticks is necessary to positively identify the species.


Although this study reports limited results, it is obvious that Rhipicephalus (rhipicephalus) sanguineus ticks are an important external parasite associated with wildlife in the United Arab Emirates. According to Reeve (1994), R. r. sanguineus are known to be vectors of serious disease in animals and humans, and it is, therefore, imperative to be aware of the risks involved when handling wildlife.

Many of the above-mentioned ticks and hosts are associations that represent new records for the United Arab Emirates, in some cases altogether new records, and they are, therefore, important both from an ecological and a disease control point of view.

It should be stressed that the study reported here was merely a preliminary investigation, and that the ticks were not verified taxonomically, but were identified using the keys supplied by Hoogstraal, Wassef & Buttiker (1981).


The authors acknowledge, with appreciation, the interest of H.H. Dr. Sheikh Sultan bin Mohammed Al Qasimi, UAE Supreme Council member and Ruler of Sharjah for his generous financing of and support for the activities of the Breeding Centre for Endangered Arabian Wildlife. They also acknowledge, with thanks, the support of the Sharjah Environment and Protected Areas Department.

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  • Wassef, H.Y., Buttiker, W. & Gallagher, M.D. (1997). Further records of ticks (Acari: Argasidae and Ixodidae) from the Arabian Peninsula. Fauna of Saudi Arabia 16: 63-88.
  • Yates, J.R. (1992). Rhipicephalus sanguineus (Latreille) Brown Dog Tick. Internet Article:http://www.extento.hawaii.edu/kbase/urban/site/brdgtick.htm
  • Peter L. Cunningham
    P.O.Box 17258,
    Al Ain.

    Kevin Thompson,
    P.O.Box 1022,
    Umm al-Qaiwain,


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