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A depository of microorganisms

Fotolab_220Gary Bauchan and Chris Pooley / Electron & Confocal Microscopy Unit, USDA-ARSThe arachnid that carries bacteria and fungus on its back is a new species of plant mite. Having collected it in Ilhéus, in Bahia State, PhD candidate José Marcos Rezende took it to the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) Agricultural Research Center in Beltsville, Maryland, where he photographed it using the LT-SEM, a scanning electron microscope. This microscope fixes the material by freezing it in liquid nitrogen. Afterwards, the image was colored on a computer. “With this technique it is easier to see the morphological and ecological characteristics of the material that is being examined,” says Antonio Carlos Lofego from the Institute of Biosciences, Letters and Exact Sciences (Ibilce) at the São Paulo State University (Unesp) in São José do Rio Preto. Rezende is advised by Lofego at Unesp in the animal biology graduate program and is an intern at the Smithsonian Institution mite collection, where Ronald Ochoa is his advisor. “Through the image we conclude that mites can act as depositories and dispersing agents for microorganisms,” Rezende says.

Photo submitted by José Marcos Rezende of Ibilce-Unesp