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Tuesday, March 09, 2010

More Fun With Parasites

A few posts back I mentioned the carrion beetle (Nicrophorus carolinensis). In keeping with the theme of parasites*, I am sharing another view of the same beetle with a detailed view of a few extra passengers.

carrion beetle in flight
carrion beetle (Nicrophorus carolinensis)

Watching the beetle, I could see the little white mites skittering across the beetle as it walked and flew about. It must be quite a ride for the little insects. Below is a detailed view of the same image with the mite clearly visible on the neck, and few more on the chest. It would roughly be equivalent of having a full size crab wandering around on a human.

carrion beetle with parasites
carrion beetle (Nicrophorus carolinensis) detail with mites

I posted these images to Flickr for hosting here, and a fellow Flickr alaskanent user posted this comment:

Nice shot! The mites are not parasitic however. They are mutualistic in some cases (beneficial) and in others commensalistic (the mites benefit but the beetles are neither harmed nor helped) and only in rare cases do they actually qualify as parasites. The mites eat fly eggs, thus cleaning carcasses of competitors so there is more food for the beetles.

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Portland, Oregon, United States
Husband, Father, Student Of Natural History, Photographer