Mites form friendly societies

Mar 29, 2012

For plant-inhabiting predatory mites, living among familiar neighbors reduces stress. This allows individuals to focus on other tasks and be more productive, in particular while they are foraging. The new study by Markus Strodl and Peter Schausberger, from the University of Natural Resources and Life Sciences in Vienna, Austria, supports the theory that so-called 'social familiarity' reduces the cognitive, physiological and behavioral costs of group-living, leading to increased efficiency in other tasks. Their work is published online in Springer's journal, Naturwissenschaften - The Science of Nature.

Species living in groups, such as the spider mites' predator, Phytoseiulus persimilis, face a number of stressors including social interactions with other individuals of the same species during the juvenile . This is particularly so when they live in small patches with limited . Within such patches, these individuals compete for food, space and future mates or may even be mutual predators. In order to reduce these conflicts, many group-living species are able to discriminate familiar and unfamiliar individuals based on prior contact, and familiar individuals tend to stick together.

Strodl and Schausberger studied whether a familiar social environment during the juvenile phase had any positive effects on the predatory mite's development. Among this species, group-living is brought about by the predators foraging, reproducing and developing spider mite webs, as well as mutual attraction.

In a series of three experiments, the authors showed that familiarity had significant effects on individual grouping and foraging traits of juvenile P. persimilis. In mixed-age groups of familiar and unfamiliar individuals, familiar individuals preferred to stick together.

Life-stage influenced this grouping behavior: larvae were much closer together than older individuals. In groups of individuals of the same age, the distances between individuals were smaller within groups of familiar mites than within groups of unfamiliar mites.

At similar developmental speed and body size at maturity, juvenile mites held in familiar groups foraged more efficiently than juvenile mites held in unfamiliar groups. The authors also identified a sensitive familiarization period during the larval stage, with memory persisting into the adult stage.

Explore further: 'Killer sperm' prevents mating between worm species

More information: Strodl MA & Schausberger P (2012). Social familiarity modulates group-living and foraging behavior of juvenile predatory mites. Naturwissenschaften – The Science of Nature; DOI 10.1007/s00114-012-0903-7

add to favorites email to friend print save as pdf

Related Stories

Spider mite predators serve as biological control

Nov 02, 2009

The control of spider mites, which damage tree leaves, reduce fruit quality and cost growers millions of dollars in the use of pesticide and oil spraying, is being biologically controlled in Pennsylvania apple ...

Getting dust mites to leave homes on their own

Jan 06, 2011

House dust mites, nearly microscopic creatures that inhabit every crevice of our lives and make us sneeze, have long been assumed to be solitary in behavior. Now new research has shown that they are actually ...

Whiteflies sabotage alarm system of plant in distress

Nov 26, 2009

(PhysOrg.com) -- When spider mites attack a bean plant, the plant responds by producing odours which attract predatory mites. These predatory mites then exterminate the spider mite population, thus acting ...

Assessing safety through vocal cues

Apr 13, 2007

For the first time foraging birds have been shown to use vocal cues, rather than vision, to gain information on both the size of the group they are in and their spatial position within that group.

Bigger and bossier better for fish families

Dec 14, 2009

(PhysOrg.com) -- If you are spending the holidays with big Uncle Frank or bossy Aunt Minnie and wondering whether you would be better off with another family, spare a thought for the humble cichlid fish.

Recommended for you

'Killer sperm' prevents mating between worm species

6 hours ago

The classic definition of a biological species is the ability to breed within its group, and the inability to breed outside it. For instance, breeding a horse and a donkey may result in a live mule offspring, ...

Rare Sri Lankan leopards born in French zoo

9 hours ago

Two rare Sri Lankan leopard cubs have been born in a zoo in northern France, a boost for a sub-species that numbers only about 700 in the wild, the head of the facility said Tuesday.

Researcher reveals how amphibians crossed continents

11 hours ago

There are more than 7,000 known species of amphibians that can be found in nearly every type of ecosystem on six continents. But there have been few attempts to understand exactly when and how frogs, toads, ...

User comments : 0