R11799 Soil mite

R11799 Soil mite

Description

This is a colour photomicrograph of a soil mite showing its head, body and appendages. (Classification - Phylum: Arthropoda; Class: Arachnida; Order: Oribatida.)

Acknowledgements: Reproduced courtesy of CSIRO.

Educational value
This mite belongs to the Oribatid group of mites, commonly known as moss mites or beetle mites. These mites are very small, usually less than 2 mm in length, and they have a hard outer shell called an exoskeleton. There are more than 10 000 species of Oribatid mites and they are found almost everywhere. Mites are related to ticks and spiders.
Oribatid mites mostly live in soil or leaf litter and feed on a range of dead and living organisms such as algae, fungi and animal carcases. They live in very dark areas and most species lack eyes.
Oribatid mites are extremely numerous within the soil and they play a very important role in the ecosystem. They decompose organic material and in so doing remove wastes and recycle nutrients. Predators of mites include beetles and ants. Soil mites can also be hosts for parasites such as tapeworms.
In the food chain, nutrients and energy are passed from one organism to the next in the link. Decomposers are important because, as they break down organic material, nutrients are released and made available to plants. Decomposers are also an important food source for some consumers. Worms, slugs, sea stars and fungi are other examples of decomposers.
Year level
5; 6; 7; 8; 9
Topics
Mites
Learning area
Science
Strand
Science/Science understanding
Rights
© Education Services Australia Ltd, 2011, except where indicated under Acknowledgements