A Trichy Mite in Need of a Trim

Neotrichozetes from rainforest canopy in Queensland

Neotrichozetes from rainforest canopy in Queensland

I received a request for information on neotrichy in oribatid mites from a colleague this morning. I wasn’t able to answer it with any authority, but it did remind me of this interesting oribatid mite in the genus Neotrichozetes. ‘Neo’, of course, means ‘new’ and ‘tricho’ is Greek for ‘hair’, so if I were forced to generate a common name for this mite, I suppose I might try the ‘New Hair Mite’. Perhaps not, though, as this would imply a hypothesis that the hairs are new editions to the proper number of hairs a mite should have (the state of having the correct number of hairs is called holotrichy). Neotrichozetes is probably neotrichous, most of its apparent close relatives have no more than 14 pairs of notogastral setae, but there is as yet no robust phylogenetic hypothesis to support this tricky interpretation.

Zetes, for those who may be wondering, was a winged being and a son of the North Wind (Boreas) and Oreithyia, a young lady who made the mistake of wandering too far from home. Many mite genera end in ‘-zetes‘, which seems to come from the Greek ‘zetetes’ or ‘searcher’ and I assume is related to Zetes, the Argonauts and their quest for the Golden Fleece. Perhaps ‘Hairy Canopy Wanderer’ would be a better common name.

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3 Responses to “A Trichy Mite in Need of a Trim”

  1. Dac Crossley Says:

    “Hairy canopy wonderer” would suit some people I know. Of both sexes…

    Dac

  2. Jeffrey Says:

    Any idea what selective advantage these relatively long setae might bestow upon mites? One of my soil tydeids has very long setae too, and I can only imagine they are very cumbersome when trying to maneuver underground.

    • macromite Says:

      Hi Jeffrey,

      My hypothesis is that it is a ‘pincushion defense’. The setae physically keep predators at bay – like a hedgehog (but unlike a porcupine there is no indication the setae are shed). Some soil-inhabiting oribatids – Cosmochthonius and Beklemishevia, for example – have erectile setae that are slicked back when they are moving in soil. Perhaps your tydeid is a grassland surface form?

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