A menagerie of microarthropods

A selection of mites, springtails, and a Parajapyx

A selection of mites, springtails, and a Parajapyx

I got interested in mites through soil ecology and I’ve yet to lose my amazement that one can find dozens of species of microarthropods living in a few handfuls of decomposing plant matter almost anywhere.  True desert soils usually only have a couple dozen, and there are probably only 5-6 dozen species of microarthropods known from the Antarctic continent, but pretty much everywhere else a handful or two of litter may have a dozen dozen or more.  A couple of years ago a friend who was writing an ecology text asked me for a plate showing diversity in the decomposers, and I made him this.  These mites (mostly), springtails (2), and a more or less insect are all scaled the same and you might be able to faintly make out the 0.1mm scale bar in the middle of the picture.



21 Responses to “A menagerie of microarthropods”

  1. Adrian Thysse Says:

    Just saw one of your articles linked to by Kevin Zelnio of The Other 95%. On Facebook. You should add a webcounter, I would be interested to know how quick your visit count climbs.

    You’re spoiling us with so many great images–you better pace yourself!

  2. Kai Says:

    I just added this blog to my RSS reader. Keep the awesome soil organisms coming!


  3. Gunnar Says:

    Awesome! Although I would like to see some other soil diversity included, too: Pseudoscorpiones, Pauropoda, Symphyla…

    • macromite Says:

      Hi Gunnar,

      I’ve never had much luck with pauropods or symphylans: their bodies are too soft and mostly collapse into unsightly messes. I should have a pseudoscorpion or two around that may be worth working up and a couple more springtails and a microbeetle or two.



  4. Dave General Says:

    This is an excellent blog! Wonderful images of tiny arthropods to go with my daily joe.
    Keep up the good work.

  5. Adrian Thysse Says:

    On second thoughts, maybe you should take the counter down…in one week you’ve had more hits than my garden blog has had in a month!

  6. Dave Says:

    Ah yes, well, no one reads my garden blog either, but that’s okay, since it is really more of a rumination. They should visit your Gardening Zone 3b, though, and enjoy the spectacular pictures.

  7. Karen Fuoco Says:

    Is there a possibility of purchasing this image as a poster?

    Gorgeous, artful work….


  8. Mike from Ottawa Says:


    Thanks for that. I’ve pinged the Aussies to see about getting a couple of copies of the Mite of the rainforest poster.

    It would still be nice to the the image above as a poster, so you’d have at least 2 sales! 🙂


  9. Karen Fuoco Says:

    I am going to whine and plead as my last attempt to persuade you…

    awwww c’mon Dave…. (picture me with sad puppy dog eyes) I am a back yard scientist and have two impressionable boys aged 11 and 13 and I encourage them to appreciate all the cool nature stuff around them. A poster of these critters would be an awesome reminder that there is beauty yet to dicover! lol!

    Karen : )

  10. macromite Says:

    Hi Karen & Mike,

    It’s too cold and snowy out to do any gardening on this May Long Weekend Monday and that is weakening my resolve. I’ll check at work tomorrow and see how large the file is and let you know through the emails on your comments. It may be too large for your servers, but as long as you only print up one copy and use it for educational purposes, I think something can be arranged.



  11. Karen Fuoco Says:

    Whooo hoooo! : )

  12. Warren Says:

    This really is an amazing poster image. I find it more striking than Mites in the Rainforest because it’s not cluttered up with writing or drawings. It’s just pure microscopic wonder.

  13. Jason C Sumner Says:

    Dear Dave,

    Great picture. I am working with Pauropoda at the university of reading, I am working with Alejandra Perotti, she too is an acarologist, do you know her?

    Do you have any preserved specimens of Pauropoda or any records of occurrences?

    • macromite Says:

      Hi Jason,

      I seem to remember pauropods in Alberta collections – I can start looking out for them if you like. I wonder if there aren’t some species that are synanthropic? Or perhaps they are just good dispersers.

      Australia, of course, has lots of interesting pauropods including heavily sclerotized and ornamented species. I did try to get SEMs of them, but never had anything really acceptable. Even the hard-dorsum species have soft venters.

      Any idea what pauropods are feeding on? As I recall, their gut contents are not very informative.



  14. Jason C Sumner Says:

    We have found a number of Pauropoda in gardens, they also like vegetable litter and leaf litter. I have not checked for them in grass cuttings yet but will do so. I think the symphyla are more associated with human created habitats.

    Would be great if you could keep an eye out for where you find Pauropoda and what they are occurring with.

    We get one species of the highly sclerotised species here in the UK but there are surely more to find.

    I suppose that mainly they feed on decaying plant matter, but some are thought to feed on fungi. I have frequently found the sclerotised species Trachypauropus britannicus associated with fine roots in the soil. It could be that these feed on the roots or micro-organisms that are associated with these root systems. As soon as we find out anything more i’ll let you know.

    • Andy Says:

      I’ve been photographing a UK Eurypauropodid recently and wondered if you had any info on any ID characteristics of T. britannicus?

      • macromite Says:

        Hi Andy – Sorry, no idea. If Ulf Scheller is still around, he may be willing to help.macromite

  15. Why Soil is the Most Important Thing in Your Garden | Texas Gardening Info Says:

    […] you have earthworms or micro-arthropods then your soil has the full food web.  And your plants will have what they need to be healthy. […]

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