If Ticks could Talk Part Three (my name is Luna)
Written by Jenny O’Dea, Ireland © January 2010
“A mouse with paws so small and light
She scurries on all through the night
In hot pursuit a hungry fox
And clinging on was Luna
Could she last another day
Or be eaten sooner?”
This is part three of my story. I’m so glad I found my first feed – it is a mouse and she moves very fast. I’ll have to cling on for dear life. I look back to see my friend Dips, fading further and further into the distance – it’s very sad to think I may never see him again. This is my turn now, I thought to myself. I have to learn; to grow big and strong and become a mother to more children – that is my destiny, I cannot fail! Hmm, but what to do, I feel all alone. I glance all around me and see bottoms pointing in the air, some have legs and black or brown bodies and some are much larger, wrinkly and slimy looking. Ooh, they do look strange; I hope I don’t become one of those!
Suddenly, the mouse began to hurry even faster. I looked around and a giant four legged animal was coming straight towards us, with teeth snarling. Trees and bushes shot past and the wind whistled all around me. I was so scared and hurried to the mouse’s ears. It felt so comfortable and warming – I quickly nuzzled my head in and began to get a good grip. Aha, this feels so right. I felt rather proud of my little legs – the tiny hairs and small hooks on the end, helped me to cling on real tight. What a clever design from Mother Nature! I started to bury my head into the mouse’s ear – it felt so right – at last, I’m growing up!
The narrator continues Luna’s story – she is rather busy feeding and can’t talk right now! As she buries her head into the mouse’s ear, the two outer parts of her mouth called palps are spread outwards, allowing her to insert the inner cutting parts called the chelicerae into the skin. In the centre of the mouth lies a barbed like object called the hypostome. This allows Luna to keep a steady hold while she is feeding. Tick twisters are useful tools to remove ticks as the twisting motion helps to loosen the barbs grip! Whilst feeding Luna releases a cement type substance with her saliva for extra grip and injects an anesthetic, making it harder for the host to detect her presence. Ingenuously, the tick’s saliva prevents the blood from clotting while it is being lapped up – yum, tasty! Luna is totally unaware that during her feed she may be infected by anything from parasites, to viruses, to bacteria. The poor mouse has no idea either; its main concern is to not be eaten by a fox! Male ticks don’t expand as much as females during feeding, as they have a harder outer skin called a scutum covering much of their backs. Females however do need to swell up with blood to help them when they lay their eggs.
Find out in our next episode – will Luna be able to finish feeding before the mouse gets eaten by the fox? Will she turn into one of those horrible wrinkly looking things she saw earlier? And will she ever see Dips again?
Many facts in this article come courtesy of How Ticks Work
So how big is Luna at this stage in her journey? She is the size of the full stop at the end of this sentence.
Jenny O’Dea, Ireland © January 2010 – if any of this text is used please give credit to the author & blog site – many thanks!