COOL IMAGES: Mad About Mites

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Science  05 Nov 1999:
Vol. 286, Issue 5442, pp. 1047
DOI: 10.1126/science.286.5442.1047a

This creature, called an ornate false spider mite, is an Australian mite species that feeds on twigs. The stringy growths trailing behind it likely help it ride wind currents, but the purpose of the leaflike protrusions is still unknown. If you thought all mites look alike, you're in for a surprise: At this mite gallery, you'll find a dazzling array of species—from a giant (7-millimeter-long) red velvet mite to the basket mite, which camouflages itself by toting around soil in an exoskeletal structure on its back.

University of Queensland acarologist, or mite expert, David Walter hopes the site will attract students to his specialty, which is losing practitioners despite its importance in ecology and agriculture. What converted him from beetles to mites, he says, “was realizing that a handful of forest humus could have—literally—100 different species of mites going about their business. I couldn't understand how so many different kinds of animals could co-exist in such a small and seemingly homogeneous area. Once I started paying more attention to these tiny wonders, I was hooked.”

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