You are an ecosystem
February 8, 2015 4:16 AM   Subscribe

Some of the real monsters of the mite world live in soil, where one can find predatory mites armed with a medieval arsenal of mouthparts. Some have jaws with sharklike teeth; others bear smooth blades that snap together with tremendous force; still others stab with sharp and deadly sabers. These beasts stalk the tunnels of worms and the tiny holes between grains of sand.
Not to mention the hairs of your eye lashes...
posted by MartinWisse (32 comments total) 21 users marked this as a favorite
 
They are more likely, though, to dance on your face, which they do at night when they mate, before crawling back into your follicles by day to eat. In those caves mother mites give birth to a few relatively large mite-shaped eggs. The eggs hatch, and then, like all mites, the babies go through molts in which they shed their external skeleton and emerge slightly larger. Once they’re full size, their entire adult life lasts only a few weeks. Death comes at the precise moment when the mites, lacking an anus, fill up with feces, die, and decompose on your head.

I have no words for how much I did not need to know this
posted by billiebee at 4:21 AM on February 8, 2015 [19 favorites]


Creationists love to go on about the wonder of God's creatures, but seldom mention His penchant for creating arseless face-exploding shit-bugs.
posted by sobarel at 4:44 AM on February 8, 2015 [43 favorites]


Yeah, but just imagine the horrors that are living on the mites themselves. It's mites all the way down.
posted by Thorzdad at 4:56 AM on February 8, 2015 [6 favorites]




I feel like you could make a living as a fantasy/sci-fi cover artist just by taking photographs of mites and adding some trees or buildings to the background.
posted by Scattercat at 6:12 AM on February 8, 2015 [1 favorite]


The most traumatic images of my 1980's childhood were not from any horror movie, but from the show That's Incredible!, which had a segment about how these newfangled electron microscopes allowed us to see all the teeny tiny critters that were all over us.
posted by mkultra at 6:16 AM on February 8, 2015 [5 favorites]


After some swabbing, poking, and DNA sequencing, we found mites on every adult we sampled, including one species new to science that seems to live mainly on people of Asian descent. Think of it: A mite that probably lives on millions of humans, maybe even billions, and yet it was totally unknown until that moment. I was thrilled

That was not my response. BRB, off to wash my face.
posted by arcticseal at 6:21 AM on February 8, 2015


Yeah, but just imagine the horrors that are living on the mites themselves. It's mites all the way down.

Had a chance to play with an electron microscope, and went outside and picked up a tiny dead spider not much bigger than a pin head. The leg joints on the tiny spider were infested with some other creature, probably a mite of some kind. You did get the impression that if you could zoom in some more, you'd find something infesting them.
posted by StickyCarpet at 6:23 AM on February 8, 2015 [3 favorites]


It's mites all the way down

Big fleas have little fleas,
Upon their backs to bite 'em,
And little fleas have lesser fleas,
and so, ad infinitum.
posted by localroger at 6:26 AM on February 8, 2015 [11 favorites]


Demodex mites! The internet's gift to sufferes of Morgellons Disease.

Interesting that he managed to write an article about these little guys without mentioning them by name.
posted by TedW at 6:38 AM on February 8, 2015 [2 favorites]


I am delighted that I can be a host to so many bacteria, mites etc. its a good exercise in humility and responsibility
posted by rmhsinc at 6:42 AM on February 8, 2015 [6 favorites]


Fear of infestation -- psychoses and delusions of parasitosis, formication, hygiene-focused OCDs -- fascinates me. Of course the reality is both more unavoidable and benign or even necessary and more truly hideous and alien than the worst we can imagine.

When one hunts on arctic tundra in the summer, one can go for days in relentless clouds of huge mosquitoes, the buzz as loud as an airplane, your mouth gets full of them, you are literally covered head to toe in a carpet of dead ones you've smashed and live ones on top of those. For days. And worse when you have a kill to dress and the blood draws the mosquito whirlwind. Fucking miserable but just a relentless condition like weather.

Inuit science, which is correct in this as so many other explanations on which arctic survival depends, has long posited that the mosquitoes start the great caribou herds migrating north in spring, which migration is the difference between life and death for more northern subsistence hunting communities.

I've seen hunters give thanks to God for the mosquitoes as they pray over a new kill or serve the meat at home.

Just saying, there's a way these things are beautiful. Or sublime.
posted by spitbull at 6:44 AM on February 8, 2015 [16 favorites]


Relevant.
posted by Pyrogenesis at 6:57 AM on February 8, 2015 [2 favorites]


I'm pretty sure I ran into a rabbit ear mite once in a D&D game. It was bigger, however.
posted by Johnny Wallflower at 7:22 AM on February 8, 2015


Gnats a pesty subject matter, a tad mite too much information.
posted by Oyéah at 8:15 AM on February 8, 2015 [2 favorites]


I wonder how long I can go without blinking.
posted by Tell Me No Lies at 8:19 AM on February 8, 2015


Don't blink. Blink and you're dead.
posted by Thorzdad at 8:31 AM on February 8, 2015 [3 favorites]


No Trigger Warning?

That being said: I am cloaked in a gigantic host of flora and fauna, I am a biological arcology. I possess billions of lives. I am Legion.
posted by Sphinx at 9:30 AM on February 8, 2015 [1 favorite]


What a frustrating conclusion for an arachnerd to reach. Don't write an article telling me how awesome mites are only to cap it off with, "And then we discovered another new species!" Pause for breath to bate. "Oh, but no one cares." Nooooooooo!

Here are your facemites, Demodex folliculorum and Demodex brevis. Interestingly, they aren't even all that related; mites are just so everywhere that two (likely more) species separately decided the human face was a great place to camp. This is a great article with a lot more on both of them (featured previously on MiteFilter), including what they, and D. brevis (who's a little more local, genetically) in particular, can tell us about human population divergences.

Nice post, MitenWisse!
posted by byanyothername at 9:37 AM on February 8, 2015 [1 favorite]


The first time I showed these to my five-year-old, he gasped and said, "Mommy! They are so beautiful!"

Future Scientist of Gross Face Bugs, right here.
posted by Eyebrows McGee at 9:45 AM on February 8, 2015 [5 favorites]


Every time someone reminds me about face mites, I think that I could go the rest of my life never hearing about face mites again. And I would be just fine with that.
posted by Splunge at 11:56 AM on February 8, 2015 [1 favorite]


I can't even remember how long ago I learned about the face mites, bacteria, and fungus that lives upon me. I loved it then, I loved it now.

I am the giving tree.

Dance and eat and love and explode little ones. I will grow more follicles for you.
posted by bswinburn at 12:04 PM on February 8, 2015 [4 favorites]


I wish I wasn't allergic to you mites. Also the author had so much fun with this piece "Our shadows of shed life sustain multitudes."
posted by spamandkimchi at 12:16 PM on February 8, 2015


I am large, I contain multitudes. Get over it.
posted by uosuaq at 12:50 PM on February 8, 2015 [2 favorites]


The pigeon mite infestation story.
posted by bad grammar at 5:05 PM on February 8, 2015


This is a perfect example of how to skip a post ... zzzzzzzip - right past it ...
posted by aryma at 6:44 PM on February 8, 2015


Bleach kills everything, right?
posted by um at 8:23 PM on February 8, 2015 [1 favorite]


Bleach, plus sticking your head into the beam of the Large Hadron Collider.
posted by Johnny Wallflower at 8:29 PM on February 8, 2015 [1 favorite]


Oh god no. Not the eyelash mites again.

Nooooo......

NOOOooooo......
posted by Lynsey at 9:17 PM on February 8, 2015 [1 favorite]


scratches



scratches again
posted by Autumn Leaf at 9:50 AM on February 9, 2015 [1 favorite]


Johnny Wallflower: Bleach, plus sticking your head into the beam of the Large Hadron Collider.
Actually, IIRC Myth Busters disproved that the LHC kills the mites.

Turns out it just grants superpowers, and leaves the little bastards unharmed. Really disappointing, but Jamie said it was Scientific, so it's true.
posted by IAmBroom at 11:59 AM on February 9, 2015 [1 favorite]


I work in Wastewater; you want to get freaked, do a GIS on "water bears".
posted by hearthpig at 4:13 PM on February 9, 2015


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