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Rhizoglyphus echinopus (Acari: Acaridae) associated with Atta sexdens (Insecta: Formicidae)

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Four deutonymphs of bulb mites (hypopus) from Rhizoglyphus echinopus (Fumouze & Robin) (Acari: Acaridae) were found attached to the head of Atta sexdens in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. This mite species is commonly associated with ornamental plants and trees with bulbs, corms and tubers. The results of this study provided an insight into the phoretic relationship between mites and ants, indicating the role of the latter in the dispersion of the first. Despite the abundant and diverse mite fauna existing in ants, little is known about their diversity, biology, ecology and the nature of their associations.
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1Arq. Inst. Biol., v.87, 1-4, e0692019, 2020
RESUMO: Quatro deutoninfas de ácaros do bulbo (hipopus) da espécie
Rhizoglyphus echinopus (Fumouze & Robin) (Acari: Acaridae) foram
encontradas xadas na cabeça de formigas da espécie Atta sexdens no
Rio de Janeiro, Brasil. Essa espécie de ácaro está comumente associada
a plantas ornamentais e plantas com bulbos e tubérculos. Os resultados
desse estudo fornecem uma visão sobre a relação forética entre ácaros e
formigas, indicando o papel destas últimas na dispersão dos primeiros.
Apesar da abundância e da fauna diversa do ácaro em formigas, pouco se
sabe sobre a diversidade, a biologia, a ecologia e a natureza dessa associação.
PALAVRAS-CHAVE: formiga; artrópodes; primeiro regis-
tro; forésia.
ABSTRACT: Four deutonymphs of bulb mites (hypopus) from
Rhizoglyphus echinopus (Fumouze & Robin) (Acari: Acaridae)
were found attached to the head of Atta sexdens in Rio de Janeiro,
Brazil. is mite species is commonly associated with ornamental
plants and trees with bulbs, corms and tubers. e results of this
study provided an insight into the phoretic relationship between
mites and ants, indicating the role of the latter in the dispersion
of the rst. Despite the abundant and diverse mite fauna existing
in ants, little is known about their diversity, biology, ecology and
the nature of their associations.
KEYWORDS: ant; arthropods; rst record; phoresy.
Rhizoglyphus echinopus (Acari: Acaridae) associated with
Atta sexdens (Insecta: Formicidae)
Rhizoglyphus echinopus (Acari: Acaridae) associado a Atta sexdens
(Insecta: Formicidae)
Ademar Ferreira Silva1 (https://orcid.org/0000-0001-5984-8522)
Rebecca Leal Caetano2,4 (https://orcid.org/0000-0001-7780-9981)
Cesar Carriço3,4 (https://orcid.org/0000-0002-6272-2231)
Marinete Amorim1 (https://orcid.org/0000-0003-4311-3374)
Gilberto Salles Gazeta1 (https://orcid.org/0000-0003-2939-5301)
Zeneida Teixeira Pinto4,* (https://orcid.org/0000-0001-9926-0096)
1Fundação Oswaldo Cruz - Instituto Oswaldo Cruz - Laboratório de Referência Nacional em Vetores das Riquetsioses – Rio de Janeiro (RJ), Brazil.
2Universidade Estácio de Sá – Unidade Petrópolis – Rio de janeiro (RJ), Brazil.
3Laureate International Universities - Instituto Brasileiro de Medicina de Reabilitação – Rio de janeiro (RJ), Brazil.
4Fundação Oswaldo Cruz – Instituto Oswaldo Cruz – Laboratório de Educação em Ambiente e Saúde – Rio de Janeiro (RJ), Brazil.
*Corresponding author: zeneida@ioc.ocruz.br
Received on: 09/18/2019. Accepted on: 10/01/2020
DOI: 10.1590/1808-1657000692019
AGRICULTURAL ENTOMOLOGY / SCIENTIFIC COMMUNICATION
22 Arq. Inst. Biol., v.87, 1-4, e0692019, 2020
A. Silva et al.
Among pest insects of Brazilian agriculture and forestry, leaf-
cutting ants are the main agents that cause damage since they
attack all cultivated plants (SPIERetal., 2013). especies
of the tribe Attini live in symbiosis with basidiomycete fungi,
association that is important for the maintenance of the ants
colony because it allows them to obtain nutrients and, on the
other hand, enables symbiotic fungal growth with the substrates
provided by the ants (SILVAetal., 2003). Amongthe species
of the tribe Attini, Atta sexdens, popularly known as leaf cutters,
collect fresh vegetation which they use to cultivate a symbiotic
fungus inside their nests in order to provide food source to
the brood (LUCIAetal., 2014).
Some species of the genus Atta are considered the main
agricultural and forest pests in the neotropical region; there is a
constant concern with their control in various agroecosystems
(LUCIAetal., 2014; DORNELASetal., 2016).
e association of mites with ants is usually common
or mutualist, relying on bacteria, fungi and other resources
accumulated within the ant nests. Conrmed parasitic species
are rare and largely restricted to the order Mesostigmata
(CAMPBELLetal., 2013). e rst reference to myrmecophi-
lous mites in Brazil is from SELLNICK (1926).
Mites have radiated into many habitats like phytophagous,
mycophagous, saprophagous and parasites, and can be seen in
various hosts, as well as in stored products, homes, nests and
various types of soils and waste (PHILIPS; DINDAL, 1990).
Species of the family Acaridae are commonly found in humid
organic substrates. Rhizoglyphus echinopus (Fumouse & Robin)
(Acari: Acaridae) (Robine bulb mite) are typical phoretic mite and
widely distributed throughout the world (SILVAetal., 2016).
ey are known to be good indicators of environmental impact
(PAOLETTIetal., 1991) and can accumulate heavy metals in
their bodies, making them an important tool as indicators of
disturbed sites (VAN STRAALEN, 1996). is mite can cause
injuries on plant tissue creating a gateway to diseases (VENEGAS,
2003; FAN; ZHANG 2004), frequently attacking bulbs, roots,
tubers and protected crops (DÍAZetal., 2000; ZHANG, 2003).
Four deutonymphs of R. echinopus (Acari, Astigmata:
Acaridae) were taken by the rst author of this article from the
head of A. sexdens (Linnaeus, 1758) (Insecta, Formicidae) in
Cascadura, Rio de Janeiro (22.88.2’62.7”S, 43.33.8’59”W).
One hundred A. sexdens were collected from fresh leaves
of the plants Vernonia condensata Baker (Asteraceae) during
October of 2018 in the botanical garden of the Laboratório
de Zoologia da Fundação Técnico Educacional Souza Marques
(FTESM), located in Cascadura, Rio de Janeiro, Brazil.
e ants were properly identied by dichotomic keys from
MAYHÉ-NUNES (1991) and GONÇALVES (1961) and
checked out for the presence of phoretic mites.
The bulb mites removed from A. sexdens were
mounted between slide and coverslip in Hoyer’s medium
(FLECHTMANN, 1973) and examined under optical light
microscopy. Specimens were properly identied following
FLECHTMANN (1975), KRANTZ; WALTER (2009) and
FAN; ZHANG (2004) and were deposited with the voucher
specimen registration (CAVAISC – ACA-4134) at the Coleção
de Artrópodes Vetores Ápteros de Importância em Saúde das
Comunidades (CAVAISC) of the Laboratório de Referência
Nacional em Vetores das Riquetsioses (LIRN), Instituto Oswaldo
Cruz, Fundação Oswaldo Cruz (IOC/FIOCRUZ) (Fig. 1).
Leaf-cutting ants are a keystone species because of their
inuence on environmental diversity, productivity, nutrients
and energy ow. is species of ants directly and indirectly
changes the physical state of biotic and abiotic materials and
may cause economic losses (LUCIAetal., 2014).
e correct identication of pathogens that cause damage to
species of agricultural importance is fundamental for the develop-
ment of biological control strategies (JOHANSSONetal., 2013).
Rhizoglyphus echinopus deutonymphs have been observed associ-
ated with many arthropods, such as ants (BERGHOFFetal.,
2009; RETTENMEYERetal., 2011; CAMPBELLetal.,
2013), beetles (NORTON, 1973; ROGERS, 1974; DE;
PANDE, 1988; POPRAWSKI; YULE 1992; MARAKOVA,
1995), Diptera (GARMAN, 1937; ZAKHVATKIN, 1941)
and Siphonaptera (FAIN; BEAUCOURNU, 1993) as well as
in some Blattodea Subterranean termite (SILVAetal., 2016).
is study is the rst record of the association between the
bulb mite R. echinopus and Atta sexdens in Brazil.
Mites are the most abundant organisms found in ants nests
(CAMPBELLetal., 2013). Four deutonymphs of R. echinopus
associated with A. sexdens were found attached to their heads
and, according to SILVAetal. (2016), the presence of mites in
the head, mouthparts and abdomen of insects make dicult
normal feeding behavior. e abundance of mites can also harm
the sexual behavior of the phoront (RODRIGUESetal., 2013).
Despite the vast number of mite species that have been
described from the association with insects, the study of social
insect-mite interactions is still insipient. e mite species that
occur in nests of most tropical ants remain totally unknown.
Figure 1. Ventral view of Rhizoglyphus echinopus
(Deutonymph) (50×).
3Arq. Inst. Biol., v.87, 1-4, e0692019, 2020
Rhizoglyphus echinopus (Acari: Acaridae) associated with Atta sexdens (Insecta: Formicidae)
ACKNOWLEDGEMENTS: We are very thankful to The Mycological Collection Trichocomaceae (FIOCRUZ – IOC), which
facilitated the use of microscopical image capture and Paulo Vander Ferreira Santana for his help with the English’s revision.
FUNDING: This work did not receive any specic grant from funding agencies in the public, commercial, or not-for-prot sectors.
CONFLICTS OF INTEREST: All authors declare that they have no conict of interest.
ETHICAL APPROVAL: Not applicable.
AVAILABILITY OF DATA AND MATERIAL: Specimens of Rhizoglyphus echinopus were deposited with the voucher
specimen registration (CAVAISC – ACA-4134) at the Coleção de Artrópodes Vetores Ápteros de Importância em Saúde
das Comunidades (CAVAISC) of the Laboratório de Referência Nacional em Vetores das Riquetsioses (LIRN), Instituto
Oswaldo Cruz, Fundação Oswaldo Cruz (IOC/FIOCRUZ)
AUTHORS’ CONTRIBUTIONS: Conceptualization: Pinto, Z.; Carriço, C.; Caetano, R. Data curation: Amorim, M; Gazeta,
G. Formal analysis: Pinto, Z.; Carriço, C.; Caetano, R. Methodology: Silva A. Writing – review & editing: Silva A.; Pinto, Z.;
Carriço, C.; Caetano, R.; Amorim, M; Gazeta, G.
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Entre as espécies de formigas economicamente importantes, devido aos danos que muitas vezes causam à agricultura, as mais significativas são as formigas-cortadeiras por possuírem o hábito de cortar e transportar fragmentos vegetais diversos para os seus ninhos subterrâneos. O objetivo deste estudo foi caracterizar alguns aspectos ecológicos de Atta sexdens piriventris Santschi no município de Capinzal, estado de Santa Catarina, Sul do Brasil. O material de origem vegetal transportado pelas formigas apresentou como característica folhas verdes/frescas 57%, folhas secas 23%, pedaços de frutos 7%, sementes 7% e flores 3%. Já os de origem animal tiveram uma representação de 3%, e eram compostos por pedaços de insetos. A média de distância percorrida pelas formigas em busca do substrato foi de 12,54 m.
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