An intricate little blob

Not all blobs are featureless

Not all blobs are featureless

Although this blog is about mites, I’m interested in anything that is small and often ignored.  Springtails in the family Neelidae fit those criteria well.  I certainly ignored many thousands in my early work, because I didn’t realize the tiny white blobs in the sample were animals.  Once I’d realized that some of the blobs had legs, I became interested.  Steve Hopkin has an excellent illustration of just how small these animals are.

This is an Australian Megalothorax (most of the microarthropods you will see here were from Queensland) and I’m not sure of the species, but it is no bigger than the one that Steve Hopkin shows.  I don’t know the function of the concave depressions on the body, but I do wonder.  I can’t recall anything similar in mites.

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3 Responses to “An intricate little blob”

  1. clark Says:

    You wondered, I reply.
    I was reading about beetles and there are some that have concave pockets like this species has and the function is to carry and maintain fungus or algae which they feed on. When the beetle gets to a suitable location, if there is no food supply, the beetle can create a crop. That is if Wikipedia was accurate. From the looks of things, the same may hold true with this collembola

    • macromite Says:

      Hi Clark: lots of bark beetles do have fungus pockets (mycangia), but unlike what Wikipedia seems to have said, the fungus is usually their obligate food, not a snack just in case pickings are sllim.

      I doubt that the pits on the springtail are mycangia for two reasons: (1) they don’t contain fungal spores (I have looked at several individuals) and (2) there seems to be a modified seta in the middle and an opening on the margin of the rim. I wonder if it is a trigger seta and glands squirt a defensive compound? It would probably be fun to try and find out.

      Lots of bees and wasps go the beetles one better – they have mite pockets (acarinia) for lugging around useful mites.

  2. andy murray Says:

    Yes, the little pits on Megalothorax are actually sensory pits with a seta in the middle. These are quite specific to the Neelidae and probably serve in picking up movement as the Neelidae are sightless. Stunning bit of work by the way.

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