Invasive Species Compendium

Detailed coverage of invasive species threatening livelihoods and the environment worldwide


Rhipicephalus appendiculatus



Rhipicephalus appendiculatus


  • Last modified
  • 20 November 2019
  • Datasheet Type(s)
  • Vector of Animal Disease
  • Preferred Scientific Name
  • Rhipicephalus appendiculatus
  • Taxonomic Tree
  • Domain: Eukaryota
  •   Kingdom: Metazoa
  •     Phylum: Arthropoda
  •       Subphylum: Chelicerata
  •         Class: Arachnida

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Brown ear tick (Rhipicephalus appendiculatus) infestation on the ear of a calf.
TitleTheileria parva vector
CaptionBrown ear tick (Rhipicephalus appendiculatus) infestation on the ear of a calf.
Copyright©The University of Edinburgh
Brown ear tick (Rhipicephalus appendiculatus) infestation on the ear of a calf.
Theileria parva vectorBrown ear tick (Rhipicephalus appendiculatus) infestation on the ear of a calf.©The University of Edinburgh


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Rhipicephalus appendiculatus is a moderate-sized reddish-brown inornate tick with short, broad palps. When viewed from the dorsal aspect, the basis of the capitulum has a distinct hexagonal shape with protruding lateral margins (Matthysse and Colbo, 1987). Furthermore, eyes and festoons are present together with the adanal plates in the male ticks. A detailed taxonomic description is provided by Walker et al. (2000). It is important to distinguish R. appendiculatus from other species as it is the vector of east coast fever, a major disease of cattle. R. appendiculatus is morphologically very similar to Rhipicephalus zambeziensis (Walker et al., 1981; Norval et al., 1982). The primary feature distinguishing the adults is the density of the punctation pattern, which is usually much lighter in R. appendiculatus than it is in R. zambeziensis (Walker et al., 1981). Moreover, the immature stages differ in the proportions of the basis of their capitulum and shape of their palps (Walker et al., 2000). Even so, it can be difficult or even impossible to identify some individuals, specifically because both species show a wide range of morphological variation. However, their ecological preferences differ markedly and they commonly occur in separate areas. Experimental evidence showed that a fertile hybrid can be produced by R. zambeziensis females and R. appendiculatus males, whereas a sterile hybrid resulted from the reciprocal cross (Zivkovic et al., 1986). Despite this, R. appendiculatus and R. zambeziensis are distinct species which could be in the process of convergence or divergence (Zivkovic et al., 1986).

R. appendiculatus, or the brown ear tick, is undoubtedly the most important rhipicephalid tick in eastern and southern Africa, where it occurs on a wide variety of domestic and wild ruminants. The main importance of R. appendiculatus is its role as vector of the protozoan parasite Theileria parva, causative agent of East Coast fever and related disorders in cattle.


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Preferred Scientific Name

  • Rhipicephalus appendiculatus (Neumann, 1901)

International Common Names

  • English: brown ear tick; tick, brown ear

Taxonomic Tree

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  • Domain: Eukaryota
  •     Kingdom: Metazoa
  •         Phylum: Arthropoda
  •             Subphylum: Chelicerata
  •                 Class: Arachnida
  •                     Subclass: Acari
  •                         Order: Parasitiformes
  •                             Suborder: Ixodida
  •                                 Family: Ixodidae
  •                                     Genus: Rhipicephalus
  •                                         Species: Rhipicephalus appendiculatus

Hosts/Species Affected

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R. appendiculatus is a three-host tick, with larvae, nymphs and adults feeding on different hosts which may belong to the same species or to different species. Cattle are the preferred domestic hosts of all stages of development of the tick (Yeoman and Walker, 1967; Matthysse and Colbo, 1987); other domestic hosts are sheep and goats (Matthysse and Colbo, 1987) and also dogs (Walker et al., 2000). The preferred wild hosts of all stages of development are the African buffalo (Synceruscaffer), eland (Taurotragus oryx), waterbuck (Kobus ellipsiprymnus) and several species of tragelaphine antelopes (Norval et al., 1982; Horak et al., 1983). Smaller antelope species and hares are good hosts of the immature stages of R. appendiculatus (Norval et al., 1982).

The adult tick prefers to feed on the pinnae of the ears, followed by the head, whereas nymphs are most commonly present on the ears, head, legs and feet, and larvae on the head, dewlap, legs and feet. Burdens of adult ticks can be very large and infestations exceeding 1000 ticks have been recorded on cattle, buffalo, eland, nyala, greater kudu and waterbuck. Also, burdens of immature ticks, particularly larvae, often exceed several thousand (Walker et al., 2000).


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The distribution of R. appendiculatus is confined to parts of eastern, central and south-eastern Africa, The tick has been collected from 15 countries, including from north to south, the Central African Republic, Sudan, Congo, Uganda, Kenya, Rwanda, Burundi, Tanzania, Zambia, Malawi, Mozambique, Zimbabwe, Botswana, Swaziland and South Africa. The countries where the tick commonly occurs over large areas are Kenya, Uganda, Rwanda, Burundi, Tanzania, Zambia, Malawi, Zimbabwe, Swaziland and South Africa (Norval et al., 1982). Within countries its distribution is by no means continuous, but rather patchy, being limited by various factors such as climate, vegetation and suitable hosts.

R. appendiculatus is found at altitudes ranging from just above sea level to 2000 m. Rainfall for the regions where the tick is most prevalent varies between 500 mm and 2000 mm annually. At a local level the abundance of R. appendiculatus is affected by the amount of vegetation cover (Yeoman, 1967). A reduction of vegetation cover by overgrazing and the removal of trees affects the microclimate and hence the survival of the free-living stages, and this may eliminate R. appendiculatus.

R. zambeziensis replaces R. appendiculatus in several of the hotter, drier areas of central and southern Africa; these include large river valleys (Norval et al., 1992).

Distribution Table

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The distribution in this summary table is based on all the information available. When several references are cited, they may give conflicting information on the status. Further details may be available for individual references in the Distribution Table Details section which can be selected by going to Generate Report.

Last updated: 10 Jan 2020


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Horak IG; Potgieter FT; Walker JB; Vos Vde; Boomker J, 1983. The ixodid tick burdens of various large ruminant species in South African nature reserves. Onderstepoort Journal of Veterinary Research, 50(3):221-228; 17 ref.

Jongejan F; Uilenberg G, 1994. Ticks and control methods. Revue Scientifique et Technique - Office International des épizooties, 13(4):1201-1226; 72 ref.

Lightfoot CJ; Norval RAI, 1981. Tick problems in wildlife in Zimbabwe. 1. The effects of tick parasites on wild ungulates. South African Journal of Wildlife Research, 11:41-51.

Matthysse JG; Colbo MH, 1987. The ixodid ticks of Uganda. College Park, Maryland, USA: Entomological Society of America, 426 pp.

Norval RAI; Perry BD; Young AS, 1992. The epidemiology of theileriosis in Africa. London, UK: Academic Press Limited, xiii + 481 pp.; 61 pp. of ref.

Norval RAI; Sutherst RW; Kurki J; Gibson JD; Kerr JD, 1988. The effects of the brown ear-tick Rhipicephalus appendiculatus on the growth of Sanga and European breed cattle. Veterinary Parasitology, 30(2):149-164; 24 ref.

Norval RAI; Walker JB; Colborne J, 1982. The ecology of Rhipicephalus zambeziensis and Rhipicephalus appendiculatus (Acari: Ixodidae) with particular reference to Zimbabwe. Onderstepoort Journal of Veterinary Research, 49:181-190.

Rechav Y, 1982. Dynamics of tick populations (Acari: Ixodidae) in the eastern Cape Province of South Africa. Journal of Medical Entomology, 19:679-700.

Short NJ; Norval RAI, 1981. Regulation of seasonal occurrence in the tick Rhipicephalus appendiculatus Neumann, 1901. Tropical Animal Health and Production, 13:19-25.

Short NJ; Norval RAI, 1981. The seasonal activity of Rhipicephalus appendiculatus Neumann, 1901 (Acari: Ixodidae) in the highveld of Zimbabwe Rhodesia. Journal of Parasitology, 67:77-84.

Walker JB; Keirans JE; Horak IG, 2000. The genus Rhipicephalus (Acari, Ixodidae). A Guide to the Brown Ticks of the World. Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press, 643 pp.

Walker JB; Norval RAI; Corwin MD, 1981. Rhipicephalus zambeziensis sp. nov., a new tick from eastern and southern Africa, together with a re-description of Rhipicepahlus appendiculatus Neumann, 1901 (Acari: Ixodidae). Onderstepoort Journal of Veterinary Research, 48:87-104.

Yeoman GH, 1967. Field vector studies of epizootic East Coast Fever. III. Pasture ecology in relation to Rhipicephalus appendiculatus infestation rates on cattle. Bulletin of Epizootic Diseases in Africa, 15:89-13.

Yeoman GH; Walker JB, 1967. The Ixodid Ticks of Tanzania. A Study of the Zoogeography of the Ixodidae of an East African Country. London, UK: Commonwealth Institute of Entomology.

Zivkovic D; Pegram RG; Jongejan F; Mwase ET, 1986. Biology of Rhipicephalus appendiculatus and R. zambeziensis and production of a fertile hybrid under laboratory conditions. Experimental & Applied Acarology, 2(4):285-298; [1 fig.]; 12 ref.

Distribution References

CABI Data Mining, 2001. CAB Abstracts Data Mining.,

Links to Websites

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International Consortium on Ticks and Tick-borne Diseases (ICTTD-2)

Distribution Maps

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