Mites - Acari (Acarina) - Arachnid family
Mites, The acari (or Acarina) are a taxon of arachnids that contains mites and ticks. The diversity of the Acari is extraordinary and their fossil history goes back to at least the early Devonian period. Acarologists (people who study the Acari) have proposed a complex set of taxonomic ranks to classify mites. In most modern treatments, the Acari are considered a subclass of the Arachnida and are composed of two or three superorders or orders: Acariformes (or Actinotrichida), Parasitiformes (or Anactinotrichida), and Opilioacariformes; the latter is often considered a subgroup within the Parasitiformes. The monophyly of the Acari is open to debate, and the relationships of the acarines to other arachnids is not at all clear. In older treatments, the subgroups of the Acarina were placed at order rank, but as their own subdivisions have become better understood, treating them at the superorder rank is more usual.
Some parasitic forms affect humans and other mammals, causing damage by their feeding, and can even be vectors of diseases, such as scrub typhus, rickettsialpox, Lyme disease, Q fever, Colorado tick fever, tularemia, tick-borne relapsing fever, babesiosis, ehrlichiosis, and tick-borne meningoencephalitis. A well-known effect of mites on humans is their role as allergens and the stimulation of asthma in people affected by respiratory disease.
The use of predatory mites (for example, Phytoseiidae) in pest control and herbivorous mites that infest weeds are also of importance. An unquantified, but major positive contribution of the Acari is their normal functioning in ecosystems, especially their roles in the decomposer subsystem. In this context, the association of many species with carcasses and decaying organic matter qualify them as potential medicolegal indicators in forensic entomology.
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