Pacific Coast Tick

Dermacentor reticulatus

Last updated: January 6, 2023
Verified by: AZ Animals Staff
© Jerry Kirkhart from Los Osos, Calif., CC BY 2.0 , via Wikimedia Commons – License / Original

Pacific Coast ticks can go without food for two to three years without dying.

Pacific Coast Tick Scientific Classification

Kingdom
Animalia
Phylum
Arthropoda
Class
Arachnida
Order
Ixodida
Family
Ixodidae
Genus
Dermacentor
Scientific Name
Dermacentor reticulatus

Read our Complete Guide to Classification of Animals.


Pacific Coast Tick Facts

Name Of Young
Larva
Fun Fact
Pacific Coast ticks can go without food for two to three years without dying.
Most Distinctive Feature
Pacific Coast ticks have a hard dorsal plate
Distinctive Feature
They have a dark brown body with whitish markings.
Habitat
Tall-grassy fields with low-lying shrubs and trees.
Predators
Spiders, large insects, birds
Diet
Omnivore
Favorite Food
Animal blood
Type
Tick
Common Name
Pacific coast tick
Special Features
Pacific coast ticks can survive for long periods without feeding
Number Of Species
41
Location
All continents except Australia

Pacific Coast Tick Physical Characteristics

Color
  • Dark Brown
Skin Type
Exoskeleton
Lifespan
2–3 years
Length
0.08–0.6 inches
Venomous
No

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The Pacific Coast tick is a hard-bodied tick species from the family Ixodidae. Like other ticks, it feeds mainly on the blood of mammals and occasionally attaches itself to humans. The Pacific Coast tick lives on all continents except Australia. The tick is a vector of various diseases, including Rocky Mountain spotted fever, Pacific Coast tick fever, and equine piroplasmosis. Pacific Coast ticks can also inject a neurotoxin that causes tick paralysis in cattle, deer, and horses. 

Pacific Coast Tick Species, Types, and Scientific Name

The name Pacific Coast tick refers to ticks in the Dermacentor genus. This arthropod is a type of hard-bodied tick which means it belongs to the family Ixodidae. This is a broad family of ticks (order Ixodida) known for possessing a rigid shield or scutum as opposed to the soft-bodied varieties with no scutum (family Argasidae). 

The hard tick family consists of over 700 species, which means they’re more common than the soft tick family, with just 193 species. As of 2019, about 41 species have been identified in the Dermacentor genus. The American dog tick, Dermacentor variabilis, is the most famous member of this genus. 

Pacific Coast Tick
The Pacific Coast tick is a hard-bodied tick species from the family Ixodidae.

©South12th Photography/Shutterstock.com

Appearance — How To Identify the Pacific Coast Tick

The Pacific Coast tick has a flat, oval shape for which ticks are typically known. They are anywhere between 0.08 and 0.6 inches in size, depending on whether they’re engorged or not. Their most distinctive feature is the scutum or dorsal plate on their back. This feature helps to distinguish between the hard ticks and the soft-bodied ticks. 

Both male and female Dermacentor ticks have a dark-brown body with whitish markings. However, the female’s scutum tends to have a mottled off-white appearance compared to the males. Males, on the other hand, tend to have a more “spotty” appearance.  


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The larvae form of this arachnid has six legs. However, their appendages increase to eight when they grow into nymphs or adults. 

Pacific Coast Tick - Dermacentor occidentalis
Male Pacific Coast ticks (Dermacentor occidentalis) tend to have a more “spotty” appearance than females.

©Judy Gallagher / Flickr – License

Habitat — Where To Find Pacific Coast Tick

Dermacentor ticks are found in all continents except Australia. They are well distributed in the Pacific Coast region of the United States, which is why they’re called Pacific Coast ticks. Their range in the country includes the regions of California, Oregon, and Washington. The only exceptions in this region are the extremely arid parts of the Central Valley area and the desert southeast of California. 

Pacific Coast ticks prefer locations with little to no tree cover. They’re most commonly found in tall-grassy fields with low-lying shrubs and trees. The ticks stay on vegetation close to walkways and paths where animals frequent. They may also get transported into people’s homes when they get attached to pets. Pacific Coast ticks are exceptionally hardy and can go without food for two to three years without dying.

Grassy field in Northern California
Pacific Coast ticks prefer locations with little to no tree cover such as tall-grassy fields with low-lying shrubs and trees.

©GabeBautista/Shutterstock.com

Evolution and History

The timeline of tick evolution is quite unclear, and scientists are still trying to unravel it. Experts think they may have evolved sometime during the Late Silurian Period. This would mean that ticks are the earliest lineage of land-dwelling arachnids to have ever evolved. Other scientists propose a later date. According to some researchers, ticks evolved from mite-like creatures some 400 million years ago, during the Devonian. 

Others suggest an even later date for tick evolution. The most recent time proposed for the organism’s evolution is 100 million years ago (Cretaceous Period). Many questions remain about how the blood-sucking arachnids evolved. One such question concerns the evolutionary relationships between hard and soft ticks. Scientists are unsure whether these two main tick families evolved together from a common ancestor or independently. 

A much bigger question about tick evolution is how they adapted to a blood-sucking diet. Scientists think the ancestors of modern ticks were scavengers that fed on dead arthropods and that ticks only evolved a blood-feeding habit about 120 million years ago. The different tick families evolved this behavior independently. The interactions between the ticks and their hosts influenced their evolution over the years. 

Diet — What Do Pacific Coast Ticks Eat?

Ticks are parasitiformes, meaning they feed on the blood of mammals, birds, reptiles, and amphibians. Different tick species may have specific preferred hosts. For the Pacific Coast tick, they prefer livestock and larger animals. They may also be found on humans, but this does not happen often. While males need to attach and feed for a brief time to start sperm production, females require six to 10 days of feeding before abandoning their host and depositing eggs. 

What Eats Pacific Coast Ticks?

There are so many species that feed on ticks that getting rid of them is much simpler than you might think. Some of these creatures are natural predators who feed on ticks because they are essential to their survival. But there are also other species that eat ticks because they do not have other food sources. Several kinds of creatures are known to be natural enemies of the Pacific Coast tick. These animals include frogs, lizards, chickens, squirrels, opossums, guinea fowl, wild turkeys, and fire ants.

Squirrels are natural enemies of the Pacific Coast tick.
Squirrels are natural enemies of the Pacific Coast tick.

©iStock.com/Nancy Strohm

Prevention — How To Get Rid of Pacific Coast Ticks

The Dermacentor tick has several potentially harmful effects on animals and people. In addition to causing irritation due to their feeding activities, they’re active pathogens of several diseases. All stages of this tick spread a disease known as Rocky Mountain spotted fever which affects humans. Other diseases this tick spreads to humans and pets include Pacific Coast tick fever and tularemia. 

Farmers consider Pacific Coast ticks as pests because they spread diseases like bovine anaplasmosis by either nymphs or adults. Cases of tick-bite paralysis in cattle, deer, and horses have also been linked to these ticks. Therefore, it is crucial that you invest some effort in preventing and getting rid of this tick. 

People use organic oils and spray such as cedar oil, eucalyptus oil, and neem oil as repellents to get rid of this tick. Diatomaceous earth is another natural repellent that works for them. This is a powder derived from fossilized diatoms. Diatomaceous earth is harmless to people and pets but lethal for insects because it dehydrates their skin. Simply sprinkling diatomaceous earth in areas where you’ve seen Pacific Coast ticks eliminate these pests effectively. You can also apply it around your home to separate grassy areas from more forested ones. 

Permethrin is among the most effective pesticides for eliminating Pacific Coast ticks. Choose a permethrin insecticide spray suitable for the best results on the surfaces and plants you intend to treat. Before applying, read the label carefully and always wear safety gear.

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About the Author

Abdulmumin is a pharmacist and a top-rated content writer who can pretty much write on anything that can be researched on the internet. However, he particularly enjoys writing about animals, nature, and health. He loves animals, especially horses, and would love to have one someday.

Pacific Coast Tick FAQs (Frequently Asked Questions) 

Is the Pacific Coast tick dangerous?

Yes, numerous diseases are transmitted by Dermacentor species, including those caused by Rickettsia rickettsii (Rocky Mountain spotted fever), Coxiella burnetii (Q fever), Anaplasma marginale (cattle anaplasmosis), Francisella tularensis (tularemia), Babesia caballi (equine piroplasmosis), and the Flavivirus that causes Powassan encephalitis.

 

How many legs does the Pacific Coast tick have?

The Pacific Coast tick has six legs as larvae but has eight legs when they are nymphs and adults.

 

How do you identify Pacific Coast ticks?

Pacific Coast Ticks have a dark brown body, with females having a speckled off-white scutum (dorsal shield), while adult males are more mottled and “spotty.” They’re often dark with whitish-gray patterns and have a flat, oval shape.

 

How do you get rid of Pacific Coast ticks?

As soon as you discover a tick, dab some rubbing alcohol on it to help you remove it more easily. You can use tweezers to remove the tick, which can then be placed in an airtight container containing alcohol. 

 

What disease is the Pacific Coast tick known for?

The Pacific Coast tick is known for the Pacific Coast fever. It is caused by a pathogen known as Rickettsia philippi, which Pacific Coast tick spreads.

 

Does the Pacific Coast tick carry Lyme disease?

No, the Pacific Coast tick does not carry Lyme disease. Lyme disease is transmitted by the black-legged tick (Ixodes scapularis) in the Northeastern U.S. and Upper Midwestern U.S. and the western black-legged tick (Ixodes pacificus) along the Pacific Coast.

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Sources
  1. Wikipedia, Available here: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Dermacentor
  2. The University of Rhode Island, Available here: https://web.uri.edu/tickencounter/species/pacific-coast-tick
  3. Colorado Tick-Borne Disease Awareness Association, Available here: https://coloradoticks.org/pacific-coast-tick
  4. Los Angeles County West Vector Control District, Available here: https://www.lawestvector.org/ticks/

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