A jumping mite with no males

It hops, but it doesn't fool around

It hops, but it doesn't fool around

Species that are represented only by females are very common in the Acari. This isn’t supposed to be. For example, you may have heard about Muller’s ratchet, an accumulation of unrepaired mutations in asexual (and hence assumed ameiotic) organisms that is supposed to make asexual reproduction a one-way street to deleterious DNA. Meiosis is a good way to repair genetic mutations, but not the only one, and meiosis does not have to result in genetic recombination.

You may have heard about the Red Queen Hypothesis, probably the most vivid model to explain the maintenance of sex in terms of staying ahead of your parasites and competitors:
“Now, here, you see, it takes all the running you can do, to keep in the same place. If you want to get somewhere else, you must run at least twice as fast as that!” (The Red Queen in Lewis Carroll’s Through the Looking Glass)

Well, maybe, but there are an awful lot of mites that have done away with their males and seem to be plodding along just fine. Many of these parthenogens are in early derivative lineages and seem to have been around for a very long time, such as this Terpnacarus globosus. I reared this species for many generations of mother to daughter to granddaughter and so on with never a sign of a male. Also, more to my surprise, I found out they jump! Perhaps that is how they have solved the Red Queen conundrum.

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3 Responses to “A jumping mite with no males”

  1. Kevin Z Says:

    Fantastic images! Look forward to reading more about mite biodiversity and morphology!

  2. Eric Says:

    I’m blown away by the SEM photos and the biology lessons of the acari is a generous bonus! Welcome to the ‘sphere! I guarantee I will be dropping in regularly!

  3. Christie Says:

    Who needs men anyway? Oh… us silly human beings. Damn.

    Lucky mites and lizards that can do so well without them! They probably have a lot of fun kickin’ it without the men folk around.

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