Friday, December 1, 2023

Social media research – “Retweet mite”: These little animals were discovered on Twitter

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Social media research – “Retweet mite”: These little animals were discovered on Twitter – Knowledge – SRF

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Yuito Obae/dpa


Thanks to social media, an Austrian researcher tracked down a new species of mite – for the second time.

Crawling through the thicket with a magnifying glass or staring silently into the riverbed: this is how you imagine researchers at work. Sometimes all it takes to discover a new species is just scrolling through the social media feed. This is the second time this has happened to an Austrian researcher.

Biologist Tobias Pfingstl is the social explorer. He recently published a scientific description of an animal living in Japan, which he named “Ameronothrus retweet”. Translated, this means: “Retweet mite”. The reason for the name: Pfingstl discovered the type of mite on Twitter.

Interesting facts about mites (not just the ones on Twitter)

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  • With around 50,000 known species in 546 families, mites are the most species-rich group of arachnids.
  • The mites include not only the 0.2 to two millimeter small representatives, but also the much larger ticks.
  • Most species of mites live in the soil. They feed on organic material or hunt other species. Incidentally, the parasitic mites are particularly important for our pets: They spend their entire life on a host and in most cases feed on the skin components and body fluids of their victims, i.e. dogs, cats or other mammals.

Last year, Pfingstl also tracked down a previously undiscovered species of mite with the help of a Twitter user. He called it “Ameronothrus twitter”, i.e. “Twitter mite”. The animal found its way from a coast near Tokyo to a nature lover’s Twitter feed and was then forwarded by a Japanese scientist to mite expert Pfingstl. Will this type of species research continue to trend?

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