A mite that glitters

A minute tongue-twisting brachychthoniid mite

A minute tongue-twisting brachychthoniid mite

Just how small can a terrestrial arthropod get and still function?  I’ve read a few theoretical discussions on how large an arthropod can get, but not on how small.  This golden wonder is towards the small end of the mite size spectrum, at least for adult mites.  The bar at the bottom is a tenth of a millimetre and this adult is not much longer.  An even smaller egg, larva, protonymph, deutonymph, and tritonymph preceded it, however.  The record for the shortest known adult mite is about 0.08 mm (80 microns) and belongs to an eriophyoid mite – tiny worm-like mites that form galls, rust, and silvering on plants.

In life, this mite was a transluscent golden colour.  I couldn’t quite capture that vivid living hue, but settled for the idea of what it might look like if an Inca goldsmith was trying to capture the essensce.  Other brachychthoniids (a real tongue-twister and often misspelled – Greek: brachy for short, chthon for soil) are a bright orange as adults (e.g.Eobrachychthonius latior) and violet as immatures.

2 Responses to “A mite that glitters”

  1. Warren Says:

    Thank you for revealing the rainbow of tiny creatures that surrounds us. Your work has the beauty of Opo Terser’s Saliticid photos, but with the added wonder of invisibility. These are the fairies of olden times – the unseen architects of our world.

  2. James Smith Says:

    Fabulous images! Stunning creatures! Fascinating information! Thank You!

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