Monday, January 11, 2010

Tarsus Replacing Mite

I couldn't sit on this one any longer. I was trying to save it for a slow day...but it's too cool. This mite, Macrocheles rettenmeyeri, is named after recently deceased ant expert Carl Rettenmeyer. M. rettenmeyeri is only found plugged into the distal end of army ant legs, where it effectively replaces their 'claws', or more insect specific, the tarsus. We think it feeds off of army ant hemolymph (blood). The best part is that it functionally replaces the army ant claws! This means that the tongue replacing isopod is not the only species known to "functionally replace a host organ". I'd like to think that in army ant bivouacs (temporary shelters constructed out of their own bodies) ants may be connected to mites, connected to mites, connected to ants. Anyways, on to the picture (courtesy of a Carl Rettenmeyer poster):

The army ant bivouac link is actually a sculpture, by Jill Moger in the UK.

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