02 June 2007

Turtle and its hitchhiker

When we are on an expedition in Turkey we need one of those warning signs behind our car: "This vehicle makes frequent stops". We stop not just to collect snails but to take pictures, to drink tea at coffee houses, to listen to roadside musicians and to do a million other things. Almost everything alive that crosses our path, not just animals but also interesting trees, is an excuse to apply the brakes, followed by a bunch of us rushing out of the car with cameras. No wonder it usually takes us forever to get to where we are going.

The turtle was ~27 cm long. Photo by Ümit Kebapçı.

This turtle (Testudo graeca) that we encountered last May in southwestern Turkey in the middle of a high mountain road was no exception. After we photographed it, I decided that it was best for its safety-even though we were not on a busy road-to move it to a more natural spot. While carrying it, I saw a tick attached to the rear end of the turtle's shell.


According to this article, ixodid ticks (Ixodidae) are common on these turtles. The normal feeding location of the ticks is the legs of the turtles. But this one was, for some reason, on the outside of the shell. Perhaps it had just landed on its host not yet moved to the underside of the shell. Not wishing to interfere with the course of a natural event, I left the tick where it was.

The tick was ~5 mm long.


burning silo said...

Interesting! I've occasionally seen turtles with leeches attached to the shell, or to the neck area or limbs, but never a tick.

Snail said...

Cool picture of the tick. (The tortoise isn't bad bu the tick gets my ... er ... tick.)