, Volume 23, Issue 6, pp 437-454

Origin and Evolution of Feather Mites (Astigmata)

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Feather mites are highly specialized plumage and skin ectoparasites that are variously adapted for inhabiting certain microhabitats on a bird's body. Different feather mite taxa of higher (familial) rank adapted to the same microhabitats display similar main morphological adaptations even if they are rather distantly related to one another. Hypotheses on the evolution of general adaptations in morphology of feather mites during colonization and establishment in different microhabitats are presented. According to recent data, feather mites are a paraphyletic group consisting of three superfamilies: Analgoidea, Pterolichoidea and Freyanoidea. We present our view on the general feather mite phylogeny course at the familial rank for the Analgoidea by means of cladistic analysis. Co-speciation of parasites with their hosts is postulated as a main factor driving feather mite evolution. Examples are given of non-coevolutionary events, for example recolonization from one host species onto another, extinction and multiple speciation.