Dr. Joan Bushwell's Chimpanzee Refuge

Mighty Mite Sex Returns!

If it’s about spiders and sex, it’s gotta be Live Science!

Well, to be accurate, the critters are not spiders, but mites from the family Crotoniidae. These mites reproduce sexually, which is not much of an eyebrow raiser until one considers that their close relatives, the Camisiidae, reproduce by parthenogenesis.

From Tiny Creatures Rediscover the Joy of Sex

Evolutionary biologist Katja Domes at the Technical University of Darmstadt in Germany and her colleagues examined genetic sequences in two Crotoniidae species and a diverse range of 13 other mite species. Their calculations show the sexual Crotoniidae evolved from the asexual Camisiidae, the first known reversal to sexuality from asexuality within the animal kingdom. (The only other known such reversal is a plant, the mouseear hawkweed, or Hieracium pilosella.)

Domes and her colleagues detailed their findings online April 16 in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

Domes et. al.’s results indicate that the genetic component to produce males lingers among those mites that reproduce by parthenogenesis, and sexual reproduction became a favored strategy when the sexy mites’ predecessors were faced with more enemies and fewer resources as tree dwellers. The parthenogenic mites live in the soil, a more abundant environment.

I say to the Crotoniidae, “Welcome back! Here’s a gift certificate for Xandria. I’m sure they will send you a catalog.”