Feeding biology of oribatid mites in high alpine regions

Barbara M. Fischer, Heinrich Schatz, Erwin Meyer


Oribatid mites (Acari: Oribatida) are among the most abundant und species rich taxa of the soil living mesofauna. Presumably they play an important role in decomposition and are significantly engaged in nutrient cycles and dispersal of fungal spores. Oribatid mites dominate mesofauna-communities, reaching densities up to several hundred thousand individuals per square meter. The colonization success is multifactorial, and primarily resource availability, reproduction mode and mobility, and secondarily habitat characteristics have to be considered. According to the present state of knowledge oribatid mites feed mainly on fungi or detritus, but with noteworthy feeding specializations on animal tissue or lichen. Oribatid mites display both sexual and parthenogenetic reproduction; the question why most species reproduce sexually is still an unresolved problem. Potential explanations are evolutionary constraints, e.g. interactions between food source and animal, or limitation of food resources. Species composition in oribatid mite communities has been investigated frequently and is mainly influenced by habitat type. But the mechanisms for habitat specific colonization success of oribatid mite species are largely unknown.

The main objective of this project is to understand mechanisms which lead to spatial distribution patterns of oribatid mites.

We investigate the feeding biology of oribatid mite species along an altitudinal gradient in the Central Alps. The feeding biology of oribatid mites will be analyzed with dual stable isotope analysis (13C, 15N). Additionally food choice experiments will be carried out and sex ratios of oribatid mite species will be investigated. Analysis of the gathered data on community structure, reproduction mode and feeding biology of oribatid mites will enhance the knowledge about mechanisms leading to spatial distribution patterns of oribatid mites and their ecological requirements in alpine habitats.


Funding: FWF, Austrian Science Fund

Bildleiste Oribatidae 






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