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Jan van Arkel/IBED, University of Amsterdam

ScienceShot: Revenge of the Mites

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Sarah C. P. Williams
2012-10-11 09:00
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When multiple species of mites share habitats, there's no shortage of bickering for food and space. Some mites even kill the young of other species—not for food, but to reduce competition. But the young mites that survive these attacks don't forgive and forget, it turns out. In a study published online today in Scientific Reports, researchers observed that juvenile Berlese mites (Iphiseius degenerans) assaulted by adult Oudemans mites (Neoseiulus cucumeris) grew up to attack young Oudemans mites more often than usual. When adult Berlese mites were assaulted by Oudemans mites, however, the experience had no effect on how often they attacked the opposing species. The findings suggest that mites recall the experiences they have early in life—the first example of a predator experience during one life stage of an animal having a specific effect on its behavior during another life stage. While killing young mites of another species doesn't help an individual adult mite survive, it increases the survival rate of their offspring. Future work will aim to explain the benefit of the species-specific attacks.

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