Thursday, 24 August 2006

Mites are all right

On my list of things I must do when I get spare time* is the entry 'look at Riccardoella'.

Riccardoella is a genus of mites that lives in the lungs of slugs and snails, where they slurp up mucus and nibble on skin. There's an extraordinarily good picture of these critters on the Canon digital photographers' forum. (Thanks to Dark Orange for the link.)

As far as we know, the mites only occur on introduced slugs and snails in Australia. They don't seem to have made the jump to our local animals. Furthermore, there are two species—R. limacum, which lives on snails and R. oudemansi, which is only found on slugs. Why is there a difference? After all, slugs are simply snails without shells. What's keeping the mite species apart? Is it something to do with the mucus or the behaviour? Maybe there's really only one species that's variable in form? Or could there be a flock of very similar species that live on one or a few types of snail and/or slug?

And is it time for my medication?

*I may have plenty of breathing space to do all this when I'm sacked for insubordination.


Ben said...

Hi there, I resuced some giant african land snails from their slaughter.

I have begun to notice the little mites you talk about on these snails. If you look closely you can see them going in and out of the snail like the picture on the cannon site.

I am in the UK. but you say these mites are only in Australia.?

Can you help?

Snail said...

Sorry, Ben. My bad. It was an awkward sentence. What I meant was that in Australia, they only occur on introduced species of snails and slugs. (As far as we know.) So presumably they've been brought in with their hosts, which are mostly from western and southern Europe.

I really should read for context before I press the post button.

Joshua said...

I spotted some on a slug that lives in our house and took some photos - I thought you might be interested. (If that link doesn't work then go to Are these just common "house mites"? The pictures you've linked to don't seem to be working anymore so I can't see them. Do you have any more links to pictures of slug mites?

Snail said...

Nice images, Joshua!

Shame that that link's no longer working because it had some beaut photos. But the good news is I've found another page that contains images of slug mites as well as some other foes of slugs and snails.

Although they look pretty much the same as house mites, they seem to be restricted to mollusc hosts.