Alleustathia sp (ungulata)
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Alleustathia cf. ungulata

Magnification: 135:1

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Mites are a highly adaptable group of Arthropoda that are related to spiders and scropions, have eight legs and are usually smaller than a full stop. Despite representing one of the most diverse groups within the animal kingdom (>20’000 species), mites are notoriously overlooked due to the diminutive size. Millions of dust mites live inside furniture and fabric in the average home. The dead bodies and excrement of dust mites can cause allergic reactions to household dust. Other mites are parasites, whereas soil mites form part of the great diversity of organisms that contribute to the break down of plant material.

Female Alleustathia cf. ungulata (Eustathiidae), a parasitic feather mite from the Glossy Swiftlet (Collocalia esculents  from the Philippines. The Swiftlet and its parasite have been found on an expedition in 1972 and were stored in the deep freezer of a candian museum collection until 2011. Then, this specimen was collected, fixed in alcohol and shipped to Switzerland to be analyzed and illustrated by science photographer Martin Oeggerli, utilizing a scanning electron microscope (SEM). While taxonomic illustrations of this species do not show the deep rugosities of the species, they become evident on the dorsal terminus on this highly magnified hand-colored SEM scan.

This work is part of Micronaut’s ‘Cursed Knights’-series which shows close-up portraits of mites and has become famous at the IPA / Lucy Awards, after winning the 1st prize in the ‘Special Photography-Category’. Furthermore, Micronaut has been awarded ‘International Photographer of the Year’ in 2011, due to these unique works.