Although my postings have been infrequent, I think I’ve more or less reached my original goal of filling the mitey void left by the demise of the late UQ Mite Image Gallery with a set of false-coloured mite SEMs of equal or better quality and exceeded the original gallery in terms of scientific content (not to mention navel-gazing). Some day I will figure our how to use WordPress properly and have all of the images easily available for perusal without having to backtrack through all the omphaloskepsis, but until then I think I need to pay attention to Kaitlin’s point and try to post more frequently.
Since full-mite coloured SEMs take an extraordinary amount of time to compose, and I am flat-out fulfilling all of my other commitments, I’ve decided to start posting a few interesting bits & pieces of mites. I’m not sure that I even need to or should spend any time trying to tart these up with colour, because I find them extremely interesting just as they are. Well, I will let you all judge for yourselves:
These images were grabbed at 18,000 magnifications and represent ‘ornamentation’ of what is called the cerotegument: a secretion alleged to be composed of waxes and proteins that coats the outer cuticle of oribatid mites. I thought that this ornamentation might be a useful taxonomic character in a messy genus, Zygoribatula, but other genera (Oribatula, Dometorina) in the family (Oribatulidae) have similar ornamentation.
Oh well, it is still interesting, but what is its function? The rest of the surface of these mites is covered with a more or less smooth and thin coating of cerotegument – presumably keeping water in the mite and other things out . But why these pedestals in the grooves where legs I are retracted when the mites are annoyed? (NB – much of the surface structure of oribatid mites can be explained as protection from predators grabbing hold of limbs.)
When I first saw this pattern, it reminded me of pictures in magazines of the pulp era showing cities of the future with interconnecting anti-gravity roadways: better yet, cities on some hive-planet of insectoid aliens (I prefer to think of our future in a more low density, back to nature, gardens in the sky kind of way). However, I am open to more realistic suggestions. I assume the flattened tops (maximum diameter about one half of a millionth of a millimeter) support the withdrawn leg and form an air chamber under the leg, but why?