Projects nearing completion are an identification guide to Acari associated with domestic animals and a taxonomic monograph on the British phytoseiid fauna. A systematic review of the genera and species currently classified in the family Penthaleidae is in preparation. Planned projects concern the higher classification of eupodoids and systematic studies of predatory mites, particularly phytoseiids and anystids.
Molecular biology is also making contributions to the study of mites. Richard Thomas and his research group in the Molecular Biology Division of the Department of Zoology are working on several projects.
Dr Max Telford is working on a BBSRC-funded project on the developmental genetics of head segmentation in mites. We are using molecular techniques pioneered on Drosophila to identify the head segments in early mite embryos and to homologize them with those of insects and crustaceans. Head segmentation is a fundamental character in the relationships of the major arthropod groups and we expect our work to give new insights into this old and contentious problem.
Ms Deborah Goode is assisting with a SERC-funded project on ancient asexuality in acariform mites. Dr Roy Norton of the State University of New York, Syracuse is collaborating with us on this project. The nothroids are a higher taxon of oribatid mites which is completely parthenogenetic yet it contains many species, is geologically very old and is geographically widespread. This is an almost unique situation in the animals and is a challenge to our understanding of the origins and maintenance of sexual reproduction. We are using techniques of molecular systematics to better understand this group of mites and its relatives.
Mr Rob Cruickshank is working on a SERC-funded PhD studentship investigating
the evolution of genetic systems in a large and diverse group of mesostigmate
mites, the Dermanyssina, with the aid of the techniques of molecular systematics
and comparative biology.
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