Distinct life stages may experience different selection pressures influencing phenotypic evolution. Morphological evolution is also constrained by early phenotypes, since early development forms the phenotypic basis of later development. This work investigates evolutionary-developmental modification in three life stages and both sexes of 24 Rhipicephalus species using phylogenetic comparative methods for geometric morphometrics of basis capituli (basal mouthpart structure used for host attachment), and scutum or conscutum areas (proxy for overall body size). Findings indicate species using large hosts at early life stages have distinct basis capituli shapes, correlated with host size, enabling attachment to the tough skins of large hosts. Host-truncate species (one- and two-host) generally retain these adaptive features into later life stages, suggesting neoteny is linked to the evolution of host truncation. In contrast, species using small hosts at early life stages have lost these features. Developmental trajectories differ significantly between host-use strategies (niches), and correlate with distinct clades. In two-host and three-host species using large hosts at early life stages, developmental change is heterotopically accelerated (greater cell mass development) before the first off-host period where selection probably favours large individuals able to better resist dehydration when questing (waiting) for less abundant, less active hosts. In other species, development is heterotopically reduced (neotenic), possibly because dehydration risk is bypassed by prolonged host attachment (one-host species – heterotopic neoteny), or is allometrically repatterned possibly by using highly abundant and active hosts (three-host species using small hosts at early life stages – allometric repatterning). These findings highlight complex trade-offs between on- and off-host factors of free-living ectoparasite ecology, which mediate responses to diverse selection pressures varied by life stage and host-use strategy. It is proposed that these trade-offs shape evolutionary-developmental morphology and diversity of Rhipicephalus ticks.