Figure 1. Beetle (family: Passalidae) with three different species of mites (indicated by A, B, C) attached. (See Ermilov & Frolov 2019b.)
Mites may be found worldwide in almost any habitat imagined, from arctic tundra to hot deserts, from marine habitats to forests. Collectively, they also eat an extraordinarily wide variety of food. However, when the habitat becomes too crowded, or the specific food source has run out, they have to disperse to the next optimal space. Sometimes it is as easy as walking to the next spot, but sometimes the next food source is quite a distance away, and being so small and wingless, walking is just impractical.
The researchers at the National Museum go on regular field expeditions to collect animals, plants, and fossils for research and to build the collections. Such a field expedition is quite complicated to organise. Here is an example of a field expedition of an approved project to explain the process.
The next time you are exploring rock pools at the beach, look closely, for among the flashy and larger animals such as sea anemones, mussels, crabs, sea stars and snails, you may see very numerous tiny mites crawling around, ranging from white to bright red in colour.
Drs Louise Coetzee (left) and Lizel Hugo-Coetzee have been appointed Research Associates in the Faculty of Natural and Agricultural Sciences at the Univeristy of the Free State. They will be collaborating with the Department of Zoology and Entomology. Louise and Lizel are both specialists in the taxonomy of Oribatida (soil mites).