People living in different areas of the world are adapted to different temperatures. Think for example, people of Iceland will have a hard time living in Mali in the Sahara desert and vice versa. Even in South Africa, if you grew up at the cold west coast it was really uncomfortable to visit Natal for the holidays in December with the high temperatures and humidity.
Most of us are familiar with termite nests. Just imagine driving along the roads in the Free State, seeing hundreds of termite nests in the fields next to the road. In these nests are not only termites, but also mites. Some mites are free-living in the nests, sometimes catching a ride on termites to carry them around in the nest.
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.