Generalist and specialist strategies in macrochelid mites (Acari: Mesostigmata) phoretically associated with dung beetles (Coleoptera: Scarabaeidae)

  • Jérôme NiogretEmail author
  • Jean-Pierre Lumaret
  • Michel Bertrand
Conference paper


Macrochelid mites have phoretic associations with coprophilous arthropods, thereby promoting dispersal and colonization of new substrates. Contrasting strategies were observed. Opportunistic mites like Macrocheles perglaber exploit a large range of carriers, whereas specialists like M. saceri occur only on roller dung beetles (genus Scarabaeus). The opportunistic species live inside dung pats, whereas specialists live in the pedotrophic nests of Scarabaeus beetles. These modes of life are expected to have consequences for host choice. We performed olfactometer tests and morphology comparisons to assess the adaptations of opportunists and specialists to their carrier hosts. The opportunist M. perglaber was shown to discriminate between various qualities of dung. Opportunists are thought to use this ability when their carrier buries a new dung pat and they have to decide whether to leave their carrier to live in a good-quality dung pat or to stay until the carrier finds another dung pat of good quality. The specialist M. saceri did not discriminate between qualities of dung; specialists always stay on the body of their host, whatever the dung quality. These life-style features are thought to describe essential differences between generalist and specialist macrochelids. Also morphometric parameters differed among three specialist and three generalist species. Relative to the generalists, specialists had a larger body and longer PI legs (= first leg pair); both characters are hypothesized to be an advantage in active searching for carrier hosts. Availability of carrier hosts is more likely limiting to specialists than to generalists. Small size has the advantage of reaching more prey living inside the dense dung material

Key words

Macrocheles perglaber Macrocheles saceri olfactometer morphometry host selection phoresy coprophily 


Unable to display preview. Download preview PDF.

Unable to display preview. Download preview PDF.


  1. Athias Binche F (1994) La Phorésie chez les Acariens. Aspects Adaptatifs et Évolutifs. Editions du Castillet Publ, Perpignan, France.Google Scholar
  2. Cambefort Y & Hanski I (1991) Dung beetle population biology. Dung Beetle Ecology (ed. by I Hanski & Y Cambefort), pp. 36–50. Princeton University Press, Princeton, NJ, USA.Google Scholar
  3. Cicolani B (1992) Macrochelid mites (Acari: Mesostigmata) occurring in animal droppings in the pasture ecosystem in Central Italy. Agric Ecosyst Environ 40: 47–60.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  4. Combes C (1995) Interactions Durables. Ecologie et Evolution du Parasitisme. Masson, Paris, France.Google Scholar
  5. Coons LB & Axtell RC (1973) Sensory setae of first tarsi and palps of the mite Macrocheles muscaedomesticae. Ann Entomol Soc Am 66: 539–544.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  6. Costa M (1967) Notes on macrochelids associated with manure and coprid beetles in Israel. II. Three new species of the Macrocheles pisentii complex, with notes on their biology. Acarologia 9: 411–428.Google Scholar
  7. Costa M (1969) The association between mesostigmatic mites and coprid beetles. Acarologia 11: 411–428.Google Scholar
  8. Farish DJ & Axtell RC (1971) Phoresy redefined and examined in Macrocheles muscaedomesticae (Acarina: Macrochelidae). Acarologia 13: 523–531.Google Scholar
  9. Filipponi A (1964) Experimental taxonomy applied to the Macrochelidae (Acari: Mesostigmata). Proceedings of the 1st International Congrress of Acarology (ed. by GO Evans), pp. 92–100. Acarologia, Paris, France.Google Scholar
  10. Glida H & Bertrand M (2002) The occurrence of Macrocheles mites (Acari: Macrochelidae) in relation to the activity of dung beetles. A field study in Southern France. Acarid Phylogeny and Evolution. Adaptations in Mites and Ticks (ed. by F Bernini, R Nannelli, G Nuzzacci & E de Lillo), pp. 235–242. Kluwer Academic Publ, Dordrecht, The Netherlands.Google Scholar
  11. Krantz GW (1983) Mites as biological control agents of dung-breeding flies, with special reference to the Macrochelidae. Biological Control of Pests by Mites (ed. by MA Hoy, GL Cunningham & L Knutson), pp. 91–98. University of California Special Publication no. 3304, CA, USA.Google Scholar
  12. Lobo JM, Martin-Piera F & Veiga CM (1988) Las trampas pitfall con cebo, sus posibilidades en el estudio de las comunidades coprofagas de Scarabaeidae (Col.). I. Caracteristicas determinantes de su capacidad de captura. Rev Ecol Biol Sol 25: 77–100.Google Scholar
  13. Niogret J, Bertrand M, Glida H & Lumaret JP (2004) Dung or beetles, that is the question. Olfactory sensitivity, a significant trait of life of the phoretic mite Macrocheles perglaber (Acari: Mesostigmata: Macrochelidae). Acarine Biodiversity in the Natural and Human Sphere (ed. by G Weigmann, G Alberti, A Wohltmann & S Ragusa). Phytophaga 14: 215–221.Google Scholar
  14. Niogret J, Lumaret JP & Bertrand M (2006) Semiochemicals mediating host-finding behaviour in the phoretic association between Macrocheles saceri (Acari: Mesostigmata) and Scarabaeus species (Coleoptera: Scarabaeidae). Chemoecol 16: 129–134.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  15. Sivinski J (1983) The natural history of a sphaerocerid Diptera fauna. Ecol Entomol 8: 419–426.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  16. Tyndale-Biscoe M & Wallace MMH (1981) Arthropod-induced mortality in immature stages of the bush-fly, Musca vetustissima Walker (Diptera: Muscidae). Bull Entomol Res 71: 681–690.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  17. Veiga CM, Lobo JM & Martin-Piera F (1989) Las trampas pitfall con cebo, sus posibilidades en el estudio de las comunidades coprofagas de Scarabaeidae (Col.). II. Analisis de efectividad. Rev Ecol Biol Sol 26: 91–109.Google Scholar
  18. Walter DE & Krantz GW (1986) A review of glaber-group (s. str.) species of the genus Macrocheles (Acari: Macrochelidae) and a discussion of species complexes. Acarologia 27: 277–294.Google Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media B.V. 2010

Authors and Affiliations

  • Jérôme Niogret
    • 1
    Email author
  • Jean-Pierre Lumaret
    • 1
  • Michel Bertrand
    • 1
  1. 1.UMR 5175 CEFE, Ecologie des Arthropodes, Laboratoire de ZoogéographieUniversité Montpellier 3Montpellier Cedex 5France

Personalised recommendations