University of Michigan Museum of Zoology

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The Invisible World of Mites


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Did you know that mites are older than dinosaurs by about 200 million years? Mites are found almost everywhere on earth, from the highest mountains, deepest oceans, hot, wet tropical forests, to cold, dry valleys of Antarctica. You will learn this and much more from a new exhibit at the Museum of Natural History called “The Invisible World of Mites,” which highlights the research of Professor Barry OConnor, renowned acarologist.

In the rotunda as visitors enter the museum, they will see a large informational panel with photos and a plethora of mite information as well as an interactive display that explores mite diversity and tests their knowledge.

Categories covered include: what are mites? Who studies mites? Weird lifestyles, hitchin’ a ride, and sharing your bed (just what you always wanted to know).

A few more interesting facts: there are mites that move like earthworms through dirt, some mites parasitize other parasites, and mites are herbivores, carnivores and omnivores. Mites belong to one of the most diverse groups of arthropods, a very large group of creatures that have hard exoskeletons or outer shells instead of backbones. Arthropods include insects, spiders and lobsters, to name a few. OConnor is a curator of insects and arachnids in the Insect Division in the U-M Museum of Zoology.

According to the exhibit, “When you are at home, sitting on your sofa, lying in your bed, even if nobody else is around, you are never alone. There are thousands, even millions of dust mites there with you.” Now there’s a thought to leave you with. Learn more through April 2012 (the exhibit has been extended since the printing of the banners).

As seen in the University Record.