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The blacklegged tick, Ixodes (Ixodes) scapularis Say, 1821, is redescribed, based on laboratory reared specimens originating in Bulloch County, Georgia. Information on distribution, host associations, morphological variation, and medical/veterinary importance is also presented. A great deal of recent work has focused on this species because it is the principal vector of the agent of
Lyme disease (Borrelia burgdorferi Johnson, Schmidt, Hyde, Steigerwaldt & Brenner) in eastern North America. Its distribution appears to be expanding, and includes the state of Florida in the southeastern United States north to the provinces of Nova Scotia and Prince Edward Island, Canada, west to North and South Dakota, United States, and south to the state of Coahuila, Mexico. Although I. scapularis feeds on at least 125 species of North American vertebrates (54 mammalian, 57 avian, and 14 lizard species), analysis of the U.S. National Tick Collection holdings show that white-tailed deer, Odocoileus virginianus (Zimmermann), cattle, Bos taurus L., dogs, Canis lupus L., and other medium-to-large sized mammals are important hosts for adults as are native mice and other small mammals, certain ground-frequenting birds, skinks, and glass lizards for nymphs and larvae. This tick is a polytypic species exhibiting north-south and east-west morphological clines. Analysis of variance and Student-Newman-Keuls multiple comparisons revealed significant interpopulational variation that is expressed most significantly in the nymphal stage. Nymphs from northern (Minnesota, Massachusetts, Maryland) populations had relatively larger basis capituli with shorter cornua (except Maryland) than southern (North Carolina, Georgia) populations. Midwestern populations (Minnesota, Missouri) differed from eastern populations (Massachusetts, Maryland, North Carolina, Georgia) in idiosomal characters (broader scuta, larger coxae III, and IV). In addition to
Lyme disease, this tick is also a primary vector of the agent of human and rodent babesiosis, Babesia microti Franca. Under laboratory conditions it has transmitted the agents of deer babesiosis, Babesia odocoilei Emerson & Wright, tularemia, Francisella tularensis McCoy & Chapin, and anaplasmosis, Anaplasma marginale Theiler. Moreover, I. scapularis can reach pest proportions on livestock, and females can cause tick paralysis in dogs.