Wednesday, October 7, 2015

A new moss mite: Zealandozetes southensis

Mites are small arthropods that are relatives of the spiders. They are among the most diverse (50000 species) and successful of all the invertebrate groups and yet do we know so little about them. They are found in an incredible array of habitats, and because of their small size, go largely unnoticed. 

Mites occupy a wide range of ecological niches. For example, Oribatid mites are important decomposers which means they eat a wide variety of mostly dead plant and fungal material, lichens and carrion; some of them are even predators. They range in size from 0.2 to 1.4mm.

Not only today's species is new to science, also its genus was newly described. The genus name Zealandozetes refers to New Zealand, home country of this new group.  The species name also refers to the place of origin, namely the South Island of New Zealand. 

For the experts: A new oribatid mite genus, Zealandozetes gen. nov. (Oribatida, Maudheimiidae), with type species Zealandozetes southensis sp. nov., is proposed and described based on adult and juvenile instars. It inhabits the soil under and around cushionforming plants in the high-altitude alpine zone of two mountain ranges (the Pisa Range and The Remarkables) in the South Island of New Zealand. It is distinguished from species of Maudheimia by having pteromorphs reduced to pleural carinae, notogastral saccules, small pedotecta I, and both postanal porose area and Ah expressed as complex saccules. Juveniles are similar to those of Maudheimia, except the humeral organ of Z. southensis is cupule-like and gastronotic microsclerites are lacking. We give a revised diagnosis for Maudheimiidae and discuss both supportive and contradictory evidence for inclusion of Zealandozetes. Finally, we discuss endemism of Zealandozetes with reference to the knowledge of New Zealand biogeography and its oribatid fauna. 

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