Acari Cryptostigmata: India

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This is an extract from
Protozoa to Mammalia
State of the Art.
Zoological Survey of India, 1991.
By Professor Mohammad Shamim Jairajpuri
Director, Zoological Survey of India
and his team of devoted scientists.
The said book is an enlarged, updated version of
The State of Art Report: Zoology
Edited by Dr. T. N. Ananthakrishnan,
Director, Zoological Survey of India in 1980.

Note: This article is likely to have several spelling mistakes that occurred during scanning. If these errors are reported as messages to the Facebook page, your help will be gratefully acknowledged.


Acari Cryptostigmata


The cryptostigmatid or oribatid mites are common inhabitants of soil and form a complex group under the Subclass Acm. These mites are frequently known as 'beetle', or 'moss' mites. The Cryptostigmata is a cosmopolitan group of more than 6,000 species under about 800 genera. They show a high degree of diversity in structure, habit and habitat. Most oribatid species are slow-moving, strongly ornamented, and range from 110-300 J.1I11 in size.

The common habitats of these mites are soil, leaf-litter, compost heaps, lichens, moss, bark of trees, bird nests, caves, including lava caves,• nests of small mammals, pasture soil, coniferous taiga forest, arctic tundra, subantarctic zones and sea (Bhaduri and Raychaudhuri, 1981; Sanyal and Bhadurl,1986).

Oribatids are numerically the most abundant soil acarine fauna. Van der Drift (1951) estimated that soil mites constitute about 80 percent of soil fauna. In India, simllar picture has also been obtained through the work of different acarologists.

The adult cryptostigmatids often posses a discrete tracheal system consisting of a series of ducts which open laterally between coxae II-III, or open via the acetabular cavities of the legs or through the propodosomal sensory bases i.e., bothridia. The chelicerae are nonnally chelate-dentate type but occasionally elongate and attenuate. The palpi are simple sensory appendage composed of 3-5 segments. Sexual dimorphism in the Cryptostigmata is obscure.

The cryptostigmatids are primarily fungivorous or saprophagous but also consume algae, bacteria, yeasts and higher plants (Luxton, 1977).

Oribatid mites have drawn the special attention of acarologists because of their direct and indirect effect on man and other animals. The major importance of oribatid mites is related to the decomposition of organic matter resulting in the increase of soil fertility. The decomposition process of forest-litter and the resultant fertility is due mainly to this group of mites. Very few oribatids are known to feed on higher plants. These mites are also suspected to be an agent for the biological Control of the serious aquatic weed-pest, water hyacinth. Various helminth-diseases caused by anoplocephaline cestodes in the cattle and other domestic animals are transmitted by cryptostigmatid mites. They also act as predators of soil nematodes. Oribatid mites have also been reported to cause injury to plants. At, these mites which are present in the house hold dusts act as one of the causative agents for human respiratory allergic diseases.


According to gross morphological, anatomical and biological features, the Suborder Cryptostigmata is divided into several superfamilies and families. The outline classification proposed by Krantz (1978) is given below:

a) Cohort Bifemoratina Superfamily 1. Archeonothroidea, 2. Ctenacaroidea, 3. Palaeacaroidea

b) Cohort Ptyctimina Superfamily 1. Prothoplophoroidea,2. Mesoplophoroidea, 3. Phthiracaroidea,

4. Euphthiracaroidea

c) Cohort Arthronotina Superfamily 1. Parhypochthonoidea, 2. Hypochthonoidea,

3. Brachychthonoidea, 4. Phyllochthonoidea,

5. Heterochthonoidea, 6. Cosmochthonoidea

d) Cohort Holonotina Superfamily 1. Lohmannioidea,.2. Nothroidea, 3. Eulohmannioidea,

4. Epilohmannioidea, 5. 'Perlohmannioidea, 6. Collohmannioidea

Supercohort Brachypylides

a) Cohort Apterogasterina

Subcohort Polytrichae

Superfamily 1. Nanhermannioidea, 2. Hermannioidea, 3. Hermannielloidea,

4. Liodoidea, 5. Gymnodamaeoidea

Subcohort Oligotrichae

Superfamily 1. Cepheoidea, 2. Carabodoidea, 3. Polypterozetoidea,

4. Zetorchestoidea, 5. Eremaeoidea, 6. Eremuloidea, 7. Damaeolidea, 8. Oppioidea, 9. Hydrozetoidea, 10. Ameronothroidea, 11. Cymbaeremaeoidea, 12. Otocepheoidea,

13. Liacaroidea

b) Cohort Pterogasterina

Superfamily 1. Passalozetoidea, 2. Pelopoidea, 3. Galumnoidea,

4. Microzetoidea, 5. Oribatelloidea, 6. Oribatuloidea,

7. Ceratozetoidea.

Historical Resume

The frrst report of oribatid species was made as early as 1804 by Hermann from European soil. Later C. L. Koch (1836-1841) and A. D. Michael (1880-1884) made valuable contributions on the European oribatid mites.

The most extensive and monumental work in the beginning of this century was done by Berl,ese (~887-1916) and Oudemans (1896-1937). The other pioneer workers whose contributions enriched the knowledge of oribatid taxonomy are Willmann (1925-1951), Grandjean (1928-197~), van der Hammen (1952-1973), Hammer (1952-1979), Balogh (1958-1989), Aoki (1959-1989), Mahunka (1965-1989) and others. Unfortunately, the study of Indian oribatid mites had long been neglected and only in the beginning of the twentieth century this-work was initiated, and till date very little work has been done on this group of mites.

i) 1901-1947

The first description and record of cryptostigmatid mites from India was known through the work of Pearce (1906). In the early February of that year, he received from Mr. A. Gage, Superintendent of the Royal Botanic Gardens, Shibpur, Howrah district, West Bengal, several packets of moss collected from Sikkim Himalaya at altitudes varying from 610-2440 m. He described and reported 20 species distributed among 12 genera out of which 12 were already known from Great Britain. The paper also includes the description of a new genus, Chaunoproetus and eight new species. Ewing (1910) described two species of oribatid mites from the Nilgiri Hills in Tamil Nadu but the identification was doubtful. Later, Jaco (1933) examined the syntypes of Ewing's species and correctly identified them. Baker (1945) described a new species from Bareilly, Uttar Pradesh.

ii) 1948-1990

Anantaraman (1951) described one new species, Scheloribates madrasensis, from the pasture soil, and recorded the species as an intermediate host of the anoplocephaline tape worm, Moniezia expansa. Later, Prasad (1965) initiated, for a short period, the study on the soil oribatid mites of Sabour in Bihar, and reported only three mites belonging to three genera.

It is evident from the foregoing account that till 1965 the oribatid fauna of India was studied in a rather piece-meal manner. Truly speaking, late D. N. Raychaudhuri and his student A.K. Bhaduri at the Deparunent of Zoology, University of Calcutta, had initiated for the first time, an extensive study {)f oribatids of India. They built up an effective school of oribatidologists and made significant contributions to the knowledge of the taxonomy and ecology of oribatid mites. Bhaduri and Raychaudhuri (1967) first reported oribatid fauna of Calcutta and its suburbs, reporting six genera as the first records from West Bengal. In the following year, they recorded seven more species from Calcutta. Further, under the able guidance of D. N. Raychaudhuri, several workers like A. K. Bhaduri, D. K. Chakrabarti and D. C. Deb made extensive studies during the period 1969-1983 on the taxonomy of oribatids of Calcutta, Nadia and North 24-Parganas districts of the gangetic plains of West Bengal, and added a number of species, including new taxa, to the list of Indian oribatid mites. In the early seventies, of the twentieth century D. K. Choudhuri, of the Departn)cnt of Zoology, University of Burdwan, and his associates initiated the studies on the ecology of soil oribatid mites from the soils of Burdwan district. They studied the population dynamics and the effects of physico-

chemical and biological properties of soil on the cryptostigmatid fauna (Banerjee, 1972, 1974a, 1974b, 1988; Choudhuri and Banerjee, 1975). Later~ the work was taken up by Banerjee and Roy (1981) and Ghatak and Roy (1981).

The oribatids of the lateritic soils of Birbhum district, West Bengal, was specially chosen for study by T. Bhattacharya• at the Visva-Bharati University, Santiniketan, West Bengal, Bhattacharya, Bhaduri and Raychaudhuri (1974), Bhattacharya (1979), Bhattacharya and Banerjee (1979, 1981), Bhattacharya and Bhattacharya (1981), Bhattacharya, Bhattacharya and Banerjee (1980), Bhattacharya and Joy (1980), Bhattacharya, Joy and Joy (1980, 1981) and Joy and Bhattacharya (1981) worked on the taxonomy, ecology and biology on this group of mite and described and recorded several species, including new to science.

Investigations on the oribatid fauna of Orissa were made by Mishra, Bhaduri and Raychaudhuri (1980) who reported 40 species from Puri district. So far only two species of soil oribatids have been reported from Andhra Pradesh by Raju, Appalanaidu and Rao (1981). The first report of Indian plant-feeding oribatid was made from Andhra Pradesh by Venugopala Rao, Sanyal and Rao (1982). Two species of oribatids were made known for the first time from Maharashtra by Narsapur (1983) and two new species were also described by Sanyal (1984) from the same state. Only one species was recorded from Rajasthan by Reddy, Kumar and Mathur (1978).

The Oribatids from southern India have been studied to a considerable extent by Haq and his associates at the Calicut University, Kerala. Haq and Prabhoo (1976), Haq (1978a, 1978b, 1979), Haq and Adolph (1980), Adolph and Haq (1982), Balakrishna and Haq (1982, 1984), Ramani and Haq (1984), Haq and Ramani (1984) and Balakrishna (1985, 1986) made significant contributions on the taxonomy, ecology and biology of soil oribatid mites. Mahunka (1985), of the Zoology Department, Hungrian Natural History Museum, Hungary, received a collection of mites made by

the entomologists of the Natural History Museum ofGeneva during their trip to Kerala. He studied oribatid specimens and described five new genera and ten new species.

Among the northeastern states of India the oribatid fauna of Nagaland was studied by Ghosh and Bhaduri (1978) who reported five species. Bayoumi and Mahunka (1979) of the Hungarian Natural History Museum received rich oribatid material collected by W. Wittmer, Natural History Museum, Basel, during his expedition to India, and described one new species from Meghalaya. Chakrabarti and Roy Talukdar (1979, 1981) and Roy Talukdar and ChakrabfUti (1984a, 1984b) studied eleven species from Cachar, Assam.

Misra, Bhaduri and Raychaudhuri (1982) described and recorded five species from Manipur. The oribatids of Tripura have been known through the works of Sarkar (1983, 1984, 1985), Sarkar and Subias (1982,. 1983, 1984a, 1984b), Subias and Sarlcar (1982, 1983, 1984)and Bhattacharya and Halder (1984). Sanyal (1989) described 3 new species and recorded a few orbatids from Meghalaya.

Taking the oribatid fauna of the Indian Himalaya into consideration, it is observed that a good number of species are known from the eastern and northeastern Himalayas. The frrst report of oribatid species was made by Peare (1906) from the Sikkim Himalaya. Bayo~mi and Mahunka (1979) described species from Darjeeling and Kashmir. Chakrabarti, MondaI and Kundu (1978, 1979, 1981), Chakrabarti and Mondal (1981, 1983), Mondal (1984a, 1984b, 1988), Mondal and Chakrabarti (1982) and MondaI and Kundu (1983, 1984a, 1984b, .1985, 1986, 1988) extensively studied the fauna of Darjeeling hills.

Long after the pioneering work of Pearce (1906), Dhali, Bhaduri and Raychaudhuri (1980) gave the second account of the fauna of Sikkim Himalaya. KanIa( (1975) and Niedbala (1982) described several new species from the Kashmir Valley. Recently, Sengupta and Sanyal (1990) have initiated a study on the oribatid fauna of the northwestern Himalaya and reported 40 species from Himachal Pradesh. The study on the cryptostigmatid mites in the Zoological Survey of India was started by Sanyal (1978-1990). He made extensive studies on the taxonomy and ecology of oribatids of saline soils of southern parts ofWest Bengal. H~ also described and recorded oribatid mites from Maharashb'a, Kerala and Meghalaya. Sanyal (1983-1988) extensively surveyed all the districts of West Bengal and prepared a monograph on its oribatid fauna. Sanyal has already surveyed several districts of Uttar Pradesh, Sikkim, Meghalaya, Maharashtra and Tripura. Besides soil oribatids, the plant-feeding species were also studied by Rao, Sanyal and Rao, (1982) and Sanyal and Das (1989).

There has also been occasional reviews done on the work of Indian Oribatei. Most important among these are by Bhaduri and Raychaudhuri (1978. 1981), Sanyal and Bhaduri (1986) have published a checklist on Indian Oribatei.

Ecology and Biology

In a very general way it can be said that major part of researches on oribatid mites deal with soil-dwelling forms. Out of 125 scientific papers, about 120 are concerned with soil orlbatids. Most of the studies on oribatid mites were faunistically oriented. Extensive collection were made in the Himalayas and from peninsular India.

The other environs were not thoroughly explored. Only a few attempts were made to explore the oribatid fauna associated with plants (Rao, Sanyal and Rao, 1982; Sanyal and Das, 1989) and bird's nests (Gupta and Chattopadhyay. 1979; Gupta and Paul, 1985, 1989).

Singh and Mukherji (1971) studied the qualitative composition of soil cryptostigmatid mites at Varanasi, Uttar Pradesh. Banerjee (1972-1988). Choudhuri and Banerjee (1975, 1977), Banerjee and Roy (1981) and Ghatak and Roy (1981) made some contributions on qualitative and quantitative aspects of oribatid population in the soils of Burdwan and Hooghly districts of West Bengal. Bhattacharya and his associates (1978-1981) studied the population dynamics of this group of mites and the interrelationship between oribatid fauna and physico-chemical and biological properties of soils of Birbhum district, West Bengal. Sanyal (1980-1990) made extensive studies

on the faunal makeup, population structure and its relationship wi!h the edaphic factors like moisture, relative humidity, temperature, pH, organic matter, phosphate, nitrate, and biotic components present in the soil. He also studied the oribatid population in relation to the pollutants in the soil. Singh and Pillai (1981) studied the community structure of cryptostigmatids and reported twelve genera from the soils of Varanasi.

The extensive studies on the breeding biology and feeding of soil oribatids from Kerala were done by Haq and Prabhoo (1976), Haq (1978), Haq and Adolph (1980), Ramani and Haq (1988), Neena and Haq (1988), and others. Bhattacharya and Joy (1978) studied the effect of temperature on the development of Oppia nodosa.

Mukherjee, Singh and Singh (1987), Singh, Mukherjee and Singh (1989) and Sheela and Haq (1989) recorded few oribatid species as active agents for the control of water hyacinth.

More than 80% of cryptostigmatid species live in soil. But there are also records of the species from plant and water. In India, these two most important habitats have not yeti>een explored thoroughly_ These, therefore, need a thorough study.

Extensive and systematic survey is required to be undertaken in all the states of India except perhaps West Bengal.

Estimation of Taxa

As cryptostigmatids are found in different types of ecological conditions, a good deal of divergence is noticed in their organisation and consequently we find large number of genera and species. Thus, till date, agains~ an estimated total of about 159 families in the Suborder, 64 families are represented in India, by a total number of 328 species and subspecies under 164 genem. Of these species of oribatid mite, 10 genera and 142 species are"described as new to science from India and till date their distribution is restricted to this country. The distribution of oribatid families, genera and species in different states of India shows that 60% of the Indian oribatid fauna is recorded from West Bengal. The second highest number of species occurs in Himachal Pradesh.

The other states in descending order of number of species are Orissa, Kerala, Uttar Pradesh, Tripura, Sikkim, Meghalaya, Assam, Kashmir, Nagaland, Manipur, Maharashtra, Tamil Nadu, Bihar, Andhra Pradesh and Rajasthan. Our knowledge of the Indian cryptostigmatids is still far from complete. As most of the biotopes in India have not yet been thoroughly explored, it is estimated that at least another 500 species, if not more, still await discovery from India Further researches will surely reveal more information on the distribution of this group in India.

Current Studies

In the Zoological Survey of India, taxonomy and bioecology of cryptostigmatid mites of some states of India, naniely West Bengal, Tripura, Meghalaya and Uttar Pradesh, are currently under study. Outside ZSI, serious and extensive researches on cryptostigmatid mites are being canied out at the Calicut University, Kerala The studies are mostly aimed at taxonomy, biology and ecology.

Expertise India


A. K. Sanyal &B. G. Kundu, ZSI, M-Block, New Alipur, Calcutta 700 053.


A. K. Bhadurl, Department of Zoology, Vidyasagar College, 39, Sankar Ghosh Lane, Calcutta 700 006.

T. Bhattacharya, Department of Life Science, Tripura Universi'ty, P. O. Agartala College, Agartala-799 004.

D. K. Chakrabarti, Deparunent of Zoology, Krishnagar Govt. College, Krishnanagar, Nadia (West Bengal).

M. A. Haq, Acarology Division, Department of Zoology, University of Calicut, Calicut, Kerala-673635.

M. A. Kardar Hafeez, Department of Zoology, Aligarh Muslim University, Aligarh-202001.

B. K. MondaI, Department of Zoology, Ananda Chandra College, Jalpaiguri-735 101.

S. Sarkar, Department of Zoology, M. B. B. College, Agartala, Tripura.

D. Sengupta, Department of Zoology, 'Darjeeling Govt College, Darjeeling-734 101.


J. Aold, Department of Soil Zoology, Institute of Environmental Science and Technology, Yokohama National University, Tokiwadai Hodogaya-Ku, Yokohama 240, Japan.

J. Balogh, Department of Systematics Zoology and Ecology, Eotvos Lorand University, Puskin u. 3. H-I088 Budapest, Hungary.

F. Bernini, Instituto di Zoologia, delt' Universita Via Mattioli, 4-53100 Siena, Ifaly.

C. M. Engelbrecht, National Museum, Bloemfontein, Republic of South Africa.

T. Fujikawa, Kasuga -Chorne, 101-108, Yatabecho, Ibaraki Pref., 305 Japan.

L. D. Golosova, Tyumen ~tate University, Tyumen, USSR.

L. Van Der Hammen, Rijksmuseum van Natuurlijke Historie, Leiden, The Netherlands.

M. Hammer, Langstrupva, 1, Fredensborg, 3480, Denmark.

David Lee, Curator of Arachnology and Helminths, South Australian Museum, North Terrace, Adelaide, South Australia 5000.

S. Mahunka, Zoological Department; Hungarian Natural History Museum, Baros Utca 13, H¬1088, Budapest, Hungary.

W. Niedbala, Department De Morphologie D'Animaux, Universite Adam Mickiewicz, Szamarzewskiego 91 60-569, Poznan, Poland.

R. A. Norton, State University of New York, College of Environmental Science and Forestry, Syracuse, New York 13210, U.S.A.

C. P. Perez-Inigo, Department of Zoology, Institute of Zoology, Instituto Espanol De Entomologia, Madrid, Spain.

L. S. Subias, Catedra de Entomologia, Facultad de Biologia, Universidad Compluferise, Madrid-3, Spain.

J. A. Wallwork, Queens Mary College, Mile End Road, London Dl 4 NS, England.

Selected References

Bhaduri, A. K. &Raychaudhuri, D. N. 1978. Distribution of oribatid mites (Acari) in India. In : Soil Biology and Ecology in India (eds. Edwards &. Veeresh), UAS Tech. Series No.

22. 113-117.


Bbaduri. A. K. &Raychaudhuri, D. N.. 1981.. Taxonomy and distribution of oribatid mites (Acari) in India. Insecta matsUTn.• New Series 23 : 21-39.

Sanyal. A. K. &Bhadwi, A. K. 1986. Checklist of oribatid -mites (Acari) of India. Ret. %ool. Surv.lndia, Oee. Pap. No. 83 : 1-79.

Sanyal, A. K. &Bhaduri, A. K. 1988. The present state of knowledge of Oribatid taxonomy in India. In : Progress in Acarology (eds. Channa Basavana, G. P. &Viraktamatb, C. A.). Oxford &IBH Publishing Co. PvL Ltd., New Delhi, vol. 1 : 295-300.

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