Environmental Drivers of Gulf Coast Tick (Acari: Ixodidae) Range Expansion in the United States

J. Matthew Flenniken, Holly C. Tuten, Hannah Rose Vineer, Victoria C. Phillips, Chris M. Stone, Brian F. Allan

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


In the United States, the Gulf Coast tick (Amblyomma maculatum Koch) is a species of growing medical and veterinary significance, serving as the primary vector of the pathogenic bacterium, Rickettsia parkeri (Rickettsiales: Rickettsiaceae), in humans and the apicomplexan parasite, Hepatozoon americanum, in canines. Ongoing reports of A. maculatum from locations outside its historically reported distribution in the southeastern United States suggest the possibility of current and continuing range expansion. Using an ecological niche modeling approach, we combined new occurrence records with high-resolution climate and land cover data to investigate environmental drivers of the current distribution of A. maculatum in the United States. We found that environmental suitability for A. maculatum varied regionally and was primarily driven by climatic factors such as annual temperature variation and seasonality of precipitation. We also found that presence of A. maculatum was associated with open habitat with minimal canopy cover. Our model predicts large areas beyond the current distribution of A. maculatum to be environmentally suitable, suggesting the possibility of future northward and westward range expansion. These predictions of environmental suitability may be used to identify areas at potential risk for establishment and to guide future surveillance of A. maculatum in the United States.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1625-1635
Number of pages11
JournalJournal of medical entomology
Issue number5
StatePublished - Sep 2022


  • Amblyomma maculatum
  • Rickettsia parkeri
  • Gulf Coast tick
  • range expansion
  • tick-borne disease

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Parasitology
  • General Veterinary
  • Insect Science
  • Infectious Diseases


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