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The struggle of life and death (as played out in a swimming pool) - Isotoma delta

The struggle of life and death (as played out in a swimming pool) - Isotoma delta
Webb Canyon, ~2000 ft. elevation, Los Angeles County, California, USA
January 28, 2010
Size: mite = ~ .75 mm
I fished this deceased Isotoma delta (Entomobryomorpha) out of the pool and was fascinated to find a mite staying afloat by hitching a ride on the extended furcula. Not only that, but it seemed to be clutching what I think is a Poduromorpha species. (Later, when I attempted to separate the specimens, I was able to dislodge the mite from its "raft", but it steadfastly refused to give up the small springtail it was clutching. This leads me to believe that it was likely an intended meal, and in the end I let it crawl off still hanging on to its hard-won prize.)

I think this is an interesting shot in part because it shows three types of springtails -- there's also a tiny pink globular springtail (Symphypleona) visible in this image. But, I am mostly intrigued by the interplay of life and death, which I am often witness to when observing the critters stranded in the pool. Many smaller arthropods survive for quite some time by hitching a ride on the back of a larger living or deceased object. (In fact, I could probably put together a whole series of odd shots in this vein -- spider atop fly, mirid atop beetle, thrips atop bee, etc.)

OK, so somewhere in the middle of my rambling musings, there is actually an ID question lurking... (*smile*) I don't know hardly anything about mites, but I thought this distinctive looking one looked like a possible match for Penthaleus major. Can anyone confirm?

Images of this individual: tag all
The struggle of life and death (as played out in a swimming pool) - Isotoma delta The struggle of life and death (as played out in a swimming pool) - Penthaleus major

Moved from Penthaleus major.

Good call, Beatriz! Moved as per your suggestion.

I see why the close up is in the mite section. But this image belongs in the springtail section. It is confusing to be browsing mites and to bump into this.
It makes sense to link them, of course, but probably it would be better to use [thumb:#] rather than "same specimen".
I also love interactions and trying to figure them out. Nice one here!

Moved from ID Request.

The mite is definitely Penthaleus, and almost certainly P. major. They are known herbivores, and can even reach pest status (wheat, etc.). So it's quite unlikely it was using the springtails for food and not only a raft.

Thanks so much for the ID, Ray!
I appreciate the extra info regarding the dietary habits of the mite. I guess I jumped the gun in assuming that the tiny springtail it was grasping was a food item. :-) Odd that it was so reluctant to give it up once rescued from the water...

Love these shots, Harsi.
Little dramas of this kind no doubt occur countless times all around us without our ever noticing. Thanks for bringing one of them to light.

Little dramas... this one are actually one of things I love most about my fairly recent exploration into the world of arthropods. This may sound silly, but I get a real thrill from the thought that the majority of people in the world will never have any clue that these amazing little worlds even exist, much less take the time to experience them first-hand. It's like being part of some super-exclusive club or secret society. (*big grin*)

Staycation Supreme
If people were a little more aware of the macro world, they might be more content to hang out close to home, park down the street, etc.

Excellent point, Andy!
In fact, after years of primarily bird- and mammal-watching, one of the main reasons I wanted to learn more about arthropods was because I don't get the opportunity to travel much. I knew that their sheer numbers and diversity would give me ample material to study and endless new discoveries for many, many years (probably a whole lifetime, actually!). I also knew that no matter where I was, whether it be a national park, over at my parent's house for dinner, or even in a strip mall, I would probably still be able to find some cool critter to investigate. :-)

Neat pics, and interesting
To think about. No swimming pool here to observe floaters, but I'm sure it would be quite buggy in this part of the country. Colorful mite with the orange legs, and looks like it's carrying a football under arm! :)

Made me think of a football too! :-)
While I would much prefer it if my landlord would install a pool cover, I can definitely say that my knowledge of the local arthropods has benefited considerably from my rescue efforts. To anyone out there who does have a pool (or access to one), I highly recommend taking some time to help out the critters that become trapped, whilst availing yourself of the photographic and educational opportunities that present themselves!

good point - cover pool
Well said Harsi -
I think pools are especially tricky for critters because of the lights. Kind of a trick/trap. Good that you pointed out using a cover.

Fortunately... landlord's pool actually doesn't have any lights installed. I shudder to think of the added death toll that would create! :-(

I think most of the critters (and this includes the occasional frog/toad and rodent) either mistakenly fly/walk/hop into the water or are actually seeking water to drink (or to build with, like so many of the hymenopterans I have rescued). Oh, I also live in an awfully windy canyon, so a fair number may actually be unwittingly blown into the pool.

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