, Volume 22, Issue 3, pp 125-137

Review Reflections on the biology, morphology and ecology of the Macrochelidae

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Abstract

The Macrochelidae is a cosmopolitan family of predatory mesostigmatic mites, many of which occupy specialized and often unstable habitats. Most known species have adapted to life in dung deposits where prey is plentiful and the potential exists for rapid population growth. Phoresy on co-occurring flying insects plays a vital role in assuring niche continuity for macrochelids in these ephemeral substrates. A brief general review of some of the earlier highlights of macrochelid research is presented, followed by a discussion of the emergence of phoresy as a major survival strategy in the Macrochelidae associated with dung beetles. Special emphasis is placed on the behavioural and chemical mechanisms that mediate phoretic specificity of macrochelid species in the unique n-dimensional universes of their scarab hosts. Phylogenetic analysis of selected phoretic and non-phoretic macrochelid taxa has shown a strong correlation between phoretic state and evolutionary position, indicatin g that an increasing commitment to phoresy in the Macrochelidae is correlated with an advance from early derivative to terminal taxa. Laboratory and field observations have confirmed the importance of chemical, behavioural and ecological factors in maintaining the integrity of the relationship between phoretically specific macrochelids and their dung beetle hosts. © Rapid Science Ltd. 1998