Folia Parasitologica, vol. 62 (2015)

Folia Parasitologica 62:038 (2015) | 10.14411/fp.2015.038

Passive sinking into the snow as possible survival strategy during the off-host stage in an insect ectoparasite

Sirpa Kaunisto1, Hannu Ylönen2, Raine Kortet1
1 University of Eastern Finland, Department of Biology, Joensuu, Finland;
2 University of Jyväskylä, Department of Biological and Environmental Science, Konnevesi Research Station, Jyväskylä, Finland

Abiotic and biotic factors determine success or failure of individual organisms, populations and species. The early life stages are often the most vulnerable to heavy mortality due to environmental conditions. The deer ked (Lipoptena cervi Linnaeus, 1758) is an invasive insect ectoparasite of cervids that spends an important period of the life cycle outside host as immobile pupa. During winter, dark-coloured pupae drop off the host onto the snow, where they are exposed to environmental temperature variation and predation as long as the new snowfall provides shelter against these mortality factors. The other possible option is to passively sink into the snow, which is aided by morphology of pupae. Here, we experimentally studied passive snow sinking capacity of pupae of L. cervi. We show that pupae have a notable passive snow sinking capacity, which is the most likely explained by pupal morphology enabling solar energy absorption and pupal weight. The present results can be used when planning future studies and when evaluating possible predation risk and overall survival of this invasive ectoparasite species in changing environmental conditions.

Keywords: ectoparasite, Hippoboscidae, invasive species, Cervidae, low temperature, morphology, predation, pupa

Received: February 20, 2015; Accepted: April 22, 2015; Published online: July 22, 2015


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