Acari Soil Mesostigmata: 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 Soil Mesostigmata


The mesostigmata is a large cosmopolitan group of acarina which occurs in diverse habitats. The majority are free-living in soil, moss,• various litters, compost heaps, decaying plant and animal parts and manure. Many are adapted to life as parasites of v.ertebrates and invertebrates. The soil inhabiting mesostigmatids are most abundant in the soil. and are represented by more than 4000 species under an approximate number of 500 genera.

Mesostigmatid mites range in size from 200 -2000 J,lm. The adults possess a number of distinct chesmut-brown shields on the dor$um and venter. The identifying characteristics of this order include: a pair of lateroventral or laterodorsal stigmatal openings at the level of coxae II -IV, a basal palptarsal claw with two or three tines, a pair of hom-like comiculi at the terminus of the hypostome, an unpaired tritostemum and chelate-dentate chelicerae.

The soil mesostigmatids are mostly mycophagous and consume fungi iR ground and storage situations. The predaceous• ground species feed on small arthropods or their eggs, on nematodes, and occasionally on each other. Many of the predatory mites. are used as biotic agents for the control of housefly and other insect pests. They also play an indirect role in the process of humification.


The outline classification of the Suborder Mesostigmata as proposed by Krantz (1978) is given below: Class Anr;hnida Subclass Acari

()r(D' Pamsitifonnes

Suborder Gamasida (Mesostigmata)

Supercohort Monogynaspides

a. Cohort Sejina Superfamily 1. Sejoidea

b. Cohort Gamasina Superfamily 1. Parasitoidea, 2. Rhodacaroidea, 3. Ascoidea, 4. Phytoseioidea,

5. Eviphidoidea, 6. Heterozerconoidea,7. Dennanyssoidea

c. Cohort Uropodina Superfamily 1. Thinozerconoidea, 2. Polyaspidoidea, 3. Uropodoidea,

4. Diarthrophalloidea Supercohort Trigynaspides

a. Cohort Cercomegistina Superfamily 1. Cercomegistoidea

b. Cohort Antennophorina Superfamily 1. Antennophoroidea, 2. Aenictequoidea, 3. Celaenopsoidea,

4. Megisthanoidea, 5. Fedrizz ioidea , 6. Parantennuloidea

A. K. Sanyal, Zoological Survey of India, Calcutta.

Historical Resume

Hermann (1804) fust reported soil-dwelling mesostigmatid mite from European soils. Later, e.L.Koch (1836-1841)described soil mesostigmatids from Europe. -In the beginning of the twentieth century, acarologists took up studies on the systematics of mesostigmatid mites in an extensive way. The pioneer workers who made valuable contributions in this field are Michael (1880-1884), Berlese (1887.-1916), Oudemans (1896-1937), Willmann (1925-1951) and Grandjean (1928-1,972). On the contrary, studies on the soil mesostigmatids in India is still in its childhood. It is only in the beginning of the twentieth century, the Mesostigmata of Indian soils attracted acarologists for research.

i) 1901-1947

The first report of soil Mesostigmata from India was made by Ewing (1910). He described three species from the soils of Nilgiri Hills in Tamil Nadu.

ii) 1948-1990

After a long gap of about 50 years after Ewing, extensive study of soil mesostigmatid mites was started in India at the beginning of the year 1965 when S. K. Bhattacharyya, the pioneering acarologist in India, joined the Zoological Survey of India. His frrst contribution in the field contained the description of one species and record of another species from West Bengal (1965). In the same year Deb and Raychaudhuri (1965) of the University of Calcutta described one species from West Bengal. In subsequent years, Bhattacharyya (1966-1972) made extensive studies on Mesostigmata from the soils of Assam, Arunachal Pradesh,Meghalaya and West Bengal, and described 38 species an<l recorded 17 species for the frrst time from Indi~ During this period, Pramanik and Raychaudhuri (1968) described one species from West Bengal and Singh and Mukherji (1971) of Banaras Hindu University reported twelve species as new to science and also added three more species to the list of mesostigmatid fauna of India.

During the Period from 1978 to 1983, there was no report on the studies of this group of mite, except the record of a new species from West Bengal by Pramanik and Raychaudhuri (1979). Later, in the early eighties, A.R.Datta and R.K.Roy,. both of Dibrugarh, Assam, were interested to work on soil inhabiting mesostigmatid mites. Datta (1984) described two new genera, viz., Forkosclerite and Funkotriplogynium, three new species and new combinations of three known species from Assam. In the year 1988 Datta added another new genus Kranlzolaspina from Assam. The fllSt record of Mesostigmata from the soils of BihB( was made by Sengupta and Sanyal (1986). Roy (1988) publisl)ed reports of his extensive survey of soil mesostigmatid mites of Assam, Arunachal Pradesh, Andhra Pradesh, Delhi, Goa, Karnataka, Kerala, Maharashtra, Meghalaya, Naga1and, Orissa. Pondichery, Sikkim, Tamil Nadu, Tripura and West Bengal.

The .papers included the description of seven new species and len new records of the ~esostigmatid species. In India, this group of mites have not yet been explored thoroughly. So to explore the soil mesostigmatid fauna of the country. extensiv.e and systematic surveys in all the states are urgently needed.

Studies frem Different Environs

Singh and Mulcherji (1971) while studying the qualitative composition of soil arthropods in five different fields at Varanasi, Uttar Pradesh, reported twelve genera and six species. The populations were low but their distribution were similar. Bhattacharyya (1978) reported one genus. Macrocheles, from the soil of Santiniketan, West Bengal, and studied the possible correlation between the mite population and edaphic factors. Singh and Pillai (1981) studied the community structure of soil &Carina at Varanasi and recorded five genera of mesostigmatid mites. Sengupta and Sanyal (1986) studied the habitat preference of 15 species of Mesostigmata in Bihar soils. In another study, Sengupta and Sanyal (in press) discussed the ecology of some mesostigmatid Species of a paddy field in West Beogal.

Estimation of Taxa

The knowledge of Indian soil Mesostigmata is far from complete and hence it is difficult to assess the taxa accurately. Till date, nearly 110 species under 53 genera and 21 families are known from India. Of these, 43 genera and 68 species are described from India. These have not yet been reported from outside India. A total of 34 species, reported mostly from European soils, are known to occur in Indian soils also. The present status of the taxa shows that nearly 50% of the Indian soil mesostigmatid fauna has been recorded from West Bengal. In the descending order of number of species reported are Assam, Bihar, Arunachal Pradesh, Meghalaya, Uttar Pradesh, Tamil Nadu, Kamataka, Kerala, Tripura, Andhra Pradesh, Delhi, Maharashtra, Pondichery, Manipur, Sikkim, Goa, Madhya Pradesh, Nagaland, Orissa and Rajasthan.

It is evident from the foregoing account that the soil mesostigmata of West Bengal only have been studied to a comparatively greater extent As regards most other Indian states, this group is either poorly known or yet to be known. So, it is estimated that at least another 300 species, if not more, still await discovery from India.

Current Studies

In the Zoological Survey of India, S. K. Bhattacharyya is currently studying the soil mesostigmatid fauna of different states of India. The review of the family Parasitidae under the "Fauna of India" series is nearing completion.

As has already been mentioned, two other acarologists in Dibrugarh, Assam, are working on the taxonomy of soil mesostigmatid mites of Assam.

Expertise India


S. K. Bhattacharyya, Z.S.I., M. Block, New Alipore, Calcutta-700053." [Systematics].


Ashit Kumar Datta, Revti House, Santipara, Dibrugarh-786001, (Assam). [Systematics].

R. K. Roy, C/o. P. D. Chetia, Parvat Kutir, Lachit Nagar, Dibrugarh-786001, (Assam). [Systematics].


C. Athias-Henriot, INRA -Rauna des Sol, rue Sully, 21 -Dijon, France.

Bregetova, Nina G., Zoological Insitute of the Academy of Sciences of the USSR, Leningrad BOI64, U.S.S.R. [Systematics, ecology].

Evans G. Owen, Department of Zoology, University College, Dublin, London, (U.K),


Frantz, Herbert, Institut ftir Bodenforschung, Hochschule ftit Bodenkultur, Gregor Mendelstrasse 33, Vienna 18, Austria. [Systematics].

Hirschmann, Werner, 851 Fiirth i. B. AM Kavicrlin 26, (Germany). [Systematics].

Ishikawa, Kazuo, Matsuyama ShiQonome, Junior College, Kuwabara-cho Matsuyama, (Japan).


E. W. Baker, 4316, Van Buren Street, Hytattsviile, Maryland 20702, USA. (Plant Mites).

Animal Resources o/India

Jean Cooreman, Section d'Entomologie, Institut Royal des Sciences Naturelles de Belgique, 31 rue Van tier, Bruxelles 4, (Belgium). [Systematics].

Farrier, Maurice H., Department of Entomology, North Carolina State University, Raleigh, North Carolina 27607, U.S.A. [Systematics, ecology].

K. H. Hyatt, British Museum (Natural History), Cromwell Road, London S.W.7, (U.K). [Systematicsl•

G. W. Krantz, Department of Entomology, Oregon State University, Cornvallis, Oregon 97331, (U.S.A). [Syste~atics, ecology].

D. C. Lee, South Australian Museum, North Terrace, Adelaide, South Australia. [Systamatics].

G. C. Loots, Institute for Zoological Research, Potchefstroom University, :potchefstroom, South Africa. [Systematics].

E. E. Lindquist, Entomology Research Institute, K.W. Neatby Building, Ottawa 3, Ontario, (Canada). [Systematics, biology].

Selected References

Baker, E. W. &Wharton, G. W. 1952. An introduction to Acarology. Macmillan Co., Bhattacharyya, S. K. 1963. A revision of the genus Pergamasus Berlese s. lat. (Acari,. Mesostigmata). Bull. •Brit. Mus. (Nat. Hist.) %001. 11 : 133-242.

Evans, G. 0., Sheals, J. G. &Macfarlane, D. 1961. The terrestrial acari of The British Isles. Vol. 1. Introduction and Biology. British Museum (Natural History), London. : 219 pp.

Evans, G. O. &Till, W. M. 1979. Mesostigmatid mites of Britain and Ireland (Chelicerata : Acari: Parasitifonnes), Trans. zool. Soc. Lond., 3S: 139-270.

Krantz, O. W. 1962. A review of the genem of the family Macrochelidae Vitzthum 1930 (Acarina: Macrochelidae). Acaroiogia, 4 (2): 143-173.

Lee, D.C. 1970. The Rhodacaridae (Acari: Mesostigmata); Classification, external morphology and distribution of genera. Ree. S. Aust. Mus., 16 (3) : 1-219.

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