A certain species of tick has learned the secret to staying slim--by remaining virgins. Female ticks who mate will drink 100 times their weight in host blood, whereas virgins arent so gluttonous says a University of Alberta researcher who has discovered a protein that may offer clues to a $10 billion global tick problem.
"What happens is that a female will remain attached to a host, eating slowly and waiting to be fertilized," said Dr. Reuben Kaufman from the U of As Faculty of Science. "If she does copulate, the seminal fluid contains an engorgement factor protein which acts as a signal to tell her to complete engorgement. Within 24 hours of copulation she will increase another 10 times her unfed weight."
Female ticks require six to 10 days to engorge fully. The feeding cycle consists of three phases: a preparatory phase when she attaches herself to the skin; a slow phase, during which the female feeds to 10 times her unfed weight and the third phase after copulation when the female increases her weight a further 10-fold. The virgin tick, however, rarely exceeds the critical weight necessary for laying some eggs.
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