Monday 9 December 2013

A new species of Feather Mite from Saudi Arabia.

Mites (Acari) are small Arachnids related to Microwhip Scorpions (Palpigradi) and Sea Spiders (Pycnogonida). They are one of the most numerous and diverse Arthropod groups, with over 48 000 known species, but are often overlooked due to their small size. Many Mites are parasitic, with species targeting Insects, Vertebrates, Plants and even Fungi. The earliest known fossil Mites are found in the Early Devonian Rhynie Chert of Scotland, making them about 410 million years old.

In a paper published in the journal Zootaxa on 11 September 2013, a team of scientists led by Mohamed Negm of the Department of Plant Protection at the College of Food & Agriculture Sciences at King Saud University and the Department of Plant Protection at the Faculty of Agriculture at Assiut University in Egypt describe a new species of Feather Mite (Mites that live in the feathers of Birds) found living on White-cheeked Terns (Sterna repressa) on Jana Island in the Arabian Gulf, discovered as mark of a study into Mites affecting Seabirds around Saudi Arabia.

The new species is named Zachvatkinia repressae, where 'repressae' refers to the host species (Sterna repressa). Zachvatkinia repressae is a ~1 mm Feather Mite known only from White-cheeked Terns at this time (many parasites are specific to a single species of host) White-cheeked Terns are found throughout the Arabian Gulf and Red Sea, as well as around the fringes of the Indian Ocean as far east as India and as far south as South Africa.

Zachvatkinia repressae, line drawing of male specimen in dorsal view. Negm et al. (2013).

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