Ticks are tenacious! Ticks, blood-seeking ectoparasites, have been around since the dinosaur era. How do we know that? Paleontologists found a 99-million year old sample of amber containing a tick clutching a nanoraptor feather. (Peñalver et al. Nature Communications. 2017 Dec 12;8:1924).
Even now, ticks clutch mammals including you! Blacklegged ticks like small mammals such as mice, voles and shrews and birds. And of course, deer.
Non-nidicolous ticks live in open, exposed habitats such as meadows, gardens, brush and forests. Although common in rural areas, particularly in the northeastern US, blacklegged ticks can also be found in suburban and highly urbanized communities.
Ticks are vectors for disease and tick-borne diseases are increasing rapidly. Over 300,000 human cases of Lyme disease, transmitted by the blacklegged tick, are reported each year.
Although the tick vector is found in both the northern and southern states of the US, infection with the Lyme spirochete declines in southeast US. Recent studies suggest that ticks shift from attaching to mammals and bite reptiles such as lizards, which are not efficient reservoirs for the Lyme spirochete. Southern ticks also rarely quest above the leaf litter to avoid drying from the heat, making it less likely for them to bite humans.
Does anyone eat ticks? Spiders, ants predatory beetles, opossums and some birds can eat ticks, but not extensively.