bird mite, ambulacra

Images made through a microscope. All subject types.

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Charles Krebs
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bird mite, ambulacra

Post by Charles Krebs »

On a rural road I came across a Northern Flicker (Colaptes auratus, "Red-shafted Flicker") that had recently been run over by a car (not mine!).

They have some beautiful feathers (that I intend to photograph) so I grabbed a few and put them into a seal-able plastic bag. As I anticipated, it was not hard to find some avian mites on the feathers.

What intrigues me the most was the sophisticated "foot"... proper name ambulacrum (thanks NU). Obviously, living on the feathers of an adult bird, these mites need to really "hang on".

The first three shots are mainly to provide some perspective. The first shot shows the mites as I found them... tucked in and attached to the "ribs" of the feather. The next two shots show a detached mite. The last shot was the one I was really after... a pretty good view of the pad (ambulacrum) at the end of each of the eight legs. I'm not sure what the actual attachment mechanism is (NU?, Betty?), but it is clearly specialized to allow these parasitic arthropods to hang on to their host.


Image

Image

Image


edited to provide proper nomenclature for feature illustrated
Last edited by Charles Krebs on Mon Aug 23, 2010 11:35 am, edited 1 time in total.

Walter Piorkowski
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Post by Walter Piorkowski »

Amazing images Charles. There seems to be no end to the subjects the natural world provides and your inquisitive nature to find them.
Walt

NikonUser
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Post by NikonUser »

Ambulacra

To discriminate feather mites from other mites, feather mites always lack tarsal claws on at least legs 1 and 2, instead they have an elaborate ambulacrum on the end of the tarsi. For comparison, here is the ambulacrum and tarsal claws of legs 1 and 2 of a tissue feeding astigmatan nasal mite.

SEE REF HERE
NU.
student of entomology
Quote – Holmes on ‘Entomology’
” I suppose you are an entomologist ? “
” Not quite so ambitious as that, sir. I should like to put my eyes on the individual entitled to that name.
No man can be truly called an entomologist,
sir; the subject is too vast for any single human intelligence to grasp.”
Oliver Wendell Holmes, Sr
The Poet at the Breakfast Table.

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Charles Krebs
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Post by Charles Krebs »

Thanks.

NU, thanks for the info.

So this would be a "feather mite", and likely has a commensal relationship with the host.
It was previously believed that these mites had a parasitic relationship with their hosts but it is now thought that most species are more commensal with their hosts (Blanco, G 2001) (Pap, et al. 2005). Morphological studies have provided strong evidence for this with feather mite mouthparts being identified as unstructured for biting on solid material (Krantz 1971). Instead it is suggested that they feed on oils and fats secreted from the uropygial gland as well as pollen, fungus and dead epidermis tissue that is trapped within it (Proctor, 2003).
... from: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Proctophyllodidae

Mitch640
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Post by Mitch640 »

Aside from being beautiful as art, they are also beautiful as a teaching aid. I was wondering about the group of spheres near the left side of image 4. Parasite eggs on a parasite?

You might also find some feather mites inside the vane shafts themselves, whose trail is a hole chewed into the side of the shaft. These are the ones that drive the poor birds nuts.

NikonUser
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Post by NikonUser »

Mitch640 wrote:Aside from being beautiful as art, they are also beautiful as a teaching aid. I was wondering about the group of spheres near the left side of image 4. Parasite eggs on a parasite?
I doubt it. They remind me of mechanoreceptors, specifically Campanifrom Sensillae.
(caveat: it's over 40 years since I took an entomology course)
NU.
student of entomology
Quote – Holmes on ‘Entomology’
” I suppose you are an entomologist ? “
” Not quite so ambitious as that, sir. I should like to put my eyes on the individual entitled to that name.
No man can be truly called an entomologist,
sir; the subject is too vast for any single human intelligence to grasp.”
Oliver Wendell Holmes, Sr
The Poet at the Breakfast Table.

Nikon camera, lenses and objectives
Olympus microscope and objectives

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