Image of the Day: Feather Mites

Researchers used scanning electron microscopy to peer at bugs on several hummingbird species.

Feb 19, 2018
The Scientist Staff

P. huitzilopochtlii mites on a hummingbird featherY.K. YAMASAKI, ET AL.

A majority of Anna’s hummingbirds may host Proctophyllodes huitzilopochtlii feather mites in their tail flight feathers, according to a study published last week (February 14) in PLoS ONE. Researchers used light and tabletop scanning electron microscopy to scrutinize the feathers of 753 hummingbirds from five species: Anna’s, Allen’s, Black-chinned, Calliope, and Rufous. Nearly 60 percent of Anna’s hummingbirds carried the feather mites, which were present on the feathers of less than 10 percent of members of the other species.

Study coauthor Lisa Tell notes in a press release that the electron microscope used for the imaging is portable enough to use in the field.

Y.K. Yamasaki et al., “Evaluation of Proctophyllodes huitzilopochtlii on feathers from Anna’s (Calypte anna) and Black-chinned (Archilochus alexandri) Hummingbirds: prevalence assessment and imaging analysis using light and tabletop scanning electron microscopy,” PLoS ONE, doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0191323, 2018.