Lazy hitchhikers? Preliminary evidence for within-habitat phoresy in pygmephoroid mites (Acari, Scutacaridae)


  • Julia Baumann Institute of Biology, University of Graz, Universitätsplatz 2, 8010 Graz, Austria
  • Francisco Ferragut Instituto Agroforestal Mediterráneo, Universitat Politècnica de València, 46022 Valencia, Spain
  • Sanja Šimić Graz Centre for Electron Microscopy (ZFE), Steyrergasse 17, 8010 Graz, Austria



association, phoretic transport, termites, phoronts, Imparipes, Reticulitermes


Mites of the family Scutacaridae have been found in termite nests and also phoretic on termites. In contrast to what has been reported until now for scutacarid mites, the respective species did not possess claws on leg I for attachment on their host, but clasped to the termites’ coxae probably by using their large, pad-like empodia on legs II and III. This mode of attachment is a totally new and unique discovery for Scutacaridae. The fact that the mites were present on non-winged termites, which are no suitable dispersal units, points to a yet undiscussed function of phoresy: apart from serving as long-distance transport between habitats, it may also be an energy-saving way of movement within a habitat (in this example, the termite nest).


Baumann, J. (2018): Tiny mites on a great journey- a review on scutacarid mites as phoronts and inquilines (Heterostig­matina, Pygmephoroidea, Scutacaridae). – Acarologia 58(1): 192–251.

Biani, N. B., U. G. Mueller & W. T. Wcislo (2009): Cleaner mites: sanitary mutualism in the miniature ecosystem of neotropical bee nests. – The American Naturalist 173: 841–47.

Binns, E. S. (1982): Phoresy as migration- some functional aspects of phoresy in mites. – Biological Reviews 57: 571–620.

Camerik, A. M. (2010): Phoresy revisited. – In: Sabelis, M. & J. Bruin (eds): Trends in Acarology. – Springer, Dordrecht: 333–336.

Campbell, K. U., H. Klompen & T. O. Crist (2013): The diversity and host specificity of mites associated with ants: the roles of ecological and life history traits of ant hosts. – Insectes Sociaux 60: 31–41.

Clément, J.-L., A.-G. Bagnères, P. Uva, L. Wilfert, A. Quintana, J. Reinhard & S. Dronnet (2001): Biosystematics of Reticulitermes termites in Europe: morphological, chemical and molecular data. – Insectes Sociaux 48: 202–215.

Ebermann, E. (1991): Das Phänomen Polymorphismus in der Milbenfamilie Scutacaridae (Acari, Heterostigmata, Tarsonemina, Scutacaridae). – Zoologica 141: 76 pp.

Eickwort, G. C. (1994): Evolution and Life-History Patterns of Mites Associated with Bees. – In: Houck, M. A. (ed.): Mites. Ecological and Evolutionary Analyses of Life-History Patterns. – New York, London: Chapman & Hall: 218–251.

Hajiqanbar, H. & M. Sobhi (2018): New records of the microdispid mites (Acari: Heterostigmata: Microdispidae) associated with ants with a review of the family in Iran. – Persian Journal of Acarology 7(2): 105–113.

Karafiat, H. (1959): Systematik und Ökologie der Scutacariden. –

In: Stammer, H. J. (ed.): Beiträge zur Systematik und Ökologie mitteleuropäischer Acarina. Band I, Tyroglyphidae und Tarsonemini. – Leipzig: Akademische Verlagsgesellschaft Geest & Portig K.-G: 627–712.

Khaustov, A. A. (2008): Mites of the family Scutacaridae of Eastern Palaearctic. – Akademperiodyka: 290 pp.

Krantz, G. W. & D. E. Walter (2009): A Manual of Acarology. – Lubbock (TX), Texas Tech University Press: 807 pp.

Schatz, H. (1991): Arrival and establishment of Acari on oceanic islands. – In: Dusbábek F. & V. Bukva (eds): Modern Acarology. Academia, Prague and SPB Academic Publishing, The Hague, Vol. 2: 613–618.

Swan, D. C. (1936): Berlese’s fluid: remarks upon its preparation and use as a mounting medium. – Bulletin of Entomological Research 27: 389–391.

Szymkowiak, P., G. Górski & D. Bajerlein (2007): Passive dispersal in arachnids. – Biological Letters 44(2): 75–101.

Thorne, B. L., J. F. A. Traniello, E. S. Adams & M. Bulmer (1999): Reproductive dynamics and colony structure of subterranean termites of the genus Reticulitermes (Isoptera Rhinotermitidae): a review of the evidence from behavioral, ecological, and genetic studies. – Ethology, Ecology & Evolution 11: 149–169.




How to Cite

Baumann, J. ., Ferragut, F. ., & Šimić, S. . (2018). Lazy hitchhikers? Preliminary evidence for within-habitat phoresy in pygmephoroid mites (Acari, Scutacaridae). SOIL ORGANISMS, 90(3), 95–99.