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Parassitologia. 2007 Jun;49(1-2):17-22.

Importance of phoresy in the transmission of Acarina.

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  • 1Dipartimento di Patologia Animale, Profilassi ed Igiene degli Alimenti, Sezione Parassitologia, Facolt√† di Medicina Veterinaria, Universit√† di Pisa, Italy.


Dispersal capacity plays a central role in the radiation of animals, facilitating the exploitation of habitats variously distributed in space or in time or both. Many living species are unable to leave a host, crawl around, and find a new host, so they must rely on external factors to be transmitted. Biotical factors may be important in passive transport and the process, by means of which an animal is passively transported by a selected carrier of different species, is known as "phoresy". Phoresy is a phenomenon in which one animal (the phoretic) seeks out and attaches to an animal of another species, with which it does not share any phase of the life cycle, for dispersal, during which time the phoretic animal becomes quiescent, stopping feeding and development. Activity starts again beginning with detachment, induced by stimuli originating from its carrier or the microhabitat. The adaptive traits of phoresy may be categorized as follow: host surface, quiescence, recognition of signals to abandon the carrier and, if needed, synchronization with the host life cycle. Phoresy is exploited by many Arthropods. In Acarina, there are basically four main types of phoresy. First, there is a type in which adult females are the only forms becoming phoretic and attachment is by means of chelicerae, palpal hooks and ambulacral claws, which grasp a seta or a fold of the integument of carrier-host. The second type is represented by mites, in which deutonymphs are phoretic; there is generally no cheliceral or sucker attachment in this group, mites instead hanging on by their ambulacral claws. The third type is similar to the second in that deutonymphs are phoretic; however, in this case, attachment to the host is by means of an anal pedicel formed by a substance, extruded through the anus, which hardens upon coming in contact with air and literally glues the mite to its host. In the fourth type there is a very highly modified deutonymph stage, called hypope, which only occurs at certain times, presumably when environmental conditions are no longer appropriate for the mite. Hypope is simplified morphologically, may have many sucker-like discs or claspers for efficient attachment, and is much more resistant to desiccation than are other stages of the life cycle.

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