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Think Out Loud

The Mighty World Of Mites

Photo by: Dan Fergus

Photo by: Dan Fergus

Right now, as you’re reading this, there’s a very good chance that two species of Demodex mites are living in your facial pores. During the day they balance their time between eating the oils you secrete and reproducing. At night, while you’re sleeping, they leave your pores and come out to play. But the life of a mite is a short affair — just three weeks — and the end is pretty explosive, as described by Rob Dunn in a new article in National Geographic:

Death comes at the precise moment when the mites, lacking an anus, fill up with feces, die, and decompose on your head.

But that’s just one kind of face mite. Mites are everywhere:

the trachea of bees, the shafts of feathers, the anuses of turtles, the stink glands of bugs, the digestive systems of sea urchins, the lungs of snakes, the fat of pigeons, the eyeballs of fruit bats, the fur around vampire bat penises.

Michelle Trautwein researches these microscopic arachnids at the California Academy of Sciences in San Francisco, and she says that these tiny mites can offer scientists insight into humans history and migration. We’ll talk to Trautwein about mite, lice, and more.


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