VP28 Tick infestation surveillance in wild snakes of Western Ghats of India.
We surveyed the snakes for tick infestation by random sampling from different habitats and speculate the abundance, prevalence of tick infestation on wild snakes and factors affecting it. Total of 167 individuals (30 species, 22 genera, 5 families) were examined for tick infestation during November 2008 to March 2010.Two species of snakes, Indian Rat Snake Ptyas mucosa (Linnaeus, 1758) and Spectacled Cobra Naja naja (Linnaeus, 1758) were found infested by ticks. All ticks collected were identified as Amblyomma gervaisi (previously Aponomma gervaisi (Lucas, 1847)) (Sharif, 1928). Average prevalence of these ticks on Indian Rat Snakes (n=48) was 29.16 % with abundance of 7.02 ticks per individual, and on Spectacled Cobras (n=20) was 30.00% with abundance of 6.9 ticks per individual. The nymphs and males were predominant. All ticks were found on the dorsal aspect of the body of the snake and no ticks were recorded on the head, tail or ventral body. The rate of tick infestation was highest in scrub land and was lowest in ever-green forests. Female Indian Rat Snakes showed higher tick infestation rates than male Indian Rat Snakes. Using Mann-Whitney U test, we found that longer snakes of both species had significantly higher rate of tick infestation in both the species of snakes. Diversity of ectoparasites of snakes is very less with only one species of tick infesting, which is also restricted to only two species of snakes. Infestation pattern showed correlation with length, sex and the habitat of the snake. These ticks are known to carry pathogens of zoonotic importance, and hence this survey is of utmost importance with respect to ecology of reptile and parasite ecology and human health. The deteriorating effects of heavy tick infestation on snakes and its breeding success needs to be studied in detail.