In caves in Brazil, there lives a newly-discovered mite that is a freeloader. Groups of these mites live on a spider’s web and steal its food. They are the first mites known to do this.
Leopoldo Ferreira de Oliveira Bernardi at the Federal University of Lavras in Minas Gerais first saw live mites dotting a spider web by the entrance of Brazil’s Lapa Nova cave in 2007. The relationship between mites and spider immediately intrigued him.
After observing the same thing in another cave, Bernardi and his colleagues designed an experiment. They placed live bait – a cave moth – on the web of a recluse spider where mites were present.
The spider immediately attacked the moth and began feeding. But in the next 5 to 40 minutes, mites, which were previously scattered all over the web, gathered to feed on the moth.
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Photo credit: Professor Rodrigo Lopes Ferreira