The enigma of the dog mummy from Ancient Egypt and the origin of "Rhipicephalus sanguineus"

Abstract : Background: Ticks belonging to the Rhipicephalus sanguineus group are amongst the most important vectors of pathogenic microorganisms to dogs and humans. However, the taxonomy of this species group is still the subject of debate, especially because there is no type specimen or reliable morphological description for Rhipicephalus sanguineus sensu stricto. Recently, a comprehensive morphological and genetic study on representative tick specimens from Europe, Africa, Americas, and Oceania, revealed the existence of at least four morphologically and genetically distinct species under the name ‘R. sanguineus’ infesting dogs from different countries. Methods: Herein, we examined morphologically tick specimens retrieved on a dog mummy from Ancient Egypt (ca. 1st century – 4th century A.D.). The dog mummy and associated ticks were found during an archaeological expedition conducted in El Deir. Results: Scanning electron micrographs allowed us to assess their identity as belonging to the R. sanguineus group. In addition on the basis of the scutal punctation pattern, spiracular plates, width of dorsal tail of spiracular plates relative to the adjacent festoon, female genital aperture, male adanal plates and accessory shields, these ticks were tentatively identified as Rhipicephalus sp. II (=temperate species). Conclusions: It can be concluded that R. sanguineus group ticks have infested dogs living in the Mediterranean region since ancient times. This finding represents the oldest record of ticks on any animal species and adds a new piece in the complex puzzle regarding tick parasitism on dogs and humans and their role as vectors of pathogens.
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Domenico Otranto, Jean-Bernard Huchet, Alessio Giannelli, Cécile Callou, Filipe Dantas-Torres. The enigma of the dog mummy from Ancient Egypt and the origin of "Rhipicephalus sanguineus". Parasites and Vectors, BioMed Central, 2014, 7, pp.2. ⟨10.1186/1756-3305-7-2⟩. ⟨mnhn-02112511⟩

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