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Emerging and re-emerging tick-borne diseases threaten public health and the wellbeing of domestic animals and wildlife globally. The adoption of an evolutionary ecology framework aimed to diminish the impact of tick-borne diseases needs to be part of strategies to protect human and animal populations. We present a review of current knowledge on the adaptation of ticks to their environment, and the impact that global change could have on their geographic distribution in North America. Environmental pressures will affect tick population genetics by selecting genotypes able to withstand new and changing environments and by altering the connectivity and isolation of several tick populations. Research in these areas is particularly lacking in the southern US and most of Mexico with knowledge gaps on the ecology of these diseases, including a void in the identity of reservoir hosts for several tick-borne pathogens. Additionally, the way in which anthropogenic changes to landscapes may influence tick-borne disease ecology remains to be fully understood. Enhanced knowledge in these areas is needed in order to implement effective and sustainable integrated tick management strategies. We propose to refocus ecology studies with emphasis on metacommunity-based approaches to enable a holistic perspective addressing whole pathogen and host assemblages. Network analyses could be used to develop mechanistic models involving multi host-pathogen communities. An increase in our understanding of the ecology of tick-borne diseases across their geographic distribution will aid in the design of effective area-wide tick control strategies aimed to diminish the burden of pathogens transmitted by ticks.

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Archives of insect biochemistry and physiology





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