Questing is a behaviour exhibited by hard ticks (Family Ixodidae) as a way of increasing the chances of coming in to contact with a suitable mammal host. The behaviour involves the tick climbing up a blade of grass or other structure and then waiting with its front legs outstretched. As a host passes by it brushes against the legs of the tick and the tick grabs hold of the host.
Questing behaviour is triggered by a variety of cues and these differ between species. For example, some species of tick will exhibit questing behaviour in response to an increase in Carbon Dioxide levels. Carbon Dioxide is exhaled by mammals when they breathe so a rise in Carbon Dioxide would suggest the presence of a mammal. Other species of tick might use heat or movement (or a combination of these factors) as a cue to start questing behaviour.
A photograph of a Desert Cottontail (Sylvilagus audubonii) with a tick in its ear. Small mammals are often used as hosts by ticks.
Photograph by John J. Mosesso: National Biological Information Infrastructure project.
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