The Bug Geek

Insects. Doing Science. Other awesome, geeky stuff.

Bug geeks, please define…


Do not simply provide examples of the usual suspects (mites, collembola…)

I need an actual definition.  If it is a matter of size, what is the magic number?  2mm? 4? 

Help a geek out, won’t you?  (A real, actual reference to a real, actual definition – which, for the record, I have searched for and can’t find – would be much appreciated).  I’m trying to avoid making grandiose overgeneralizations (i.e., make an ass of myself) in a paper.

For even considering my request, I offer this gift of a rather SHINY (and quite adorable) Sminthurid collembola from Kug:

21 responses to “Bug geeks, please define…

    • TGIQ November 1, 2010 at 3:40 PM

      That microarthropod up there is one of the biggest dang collembolans I’ve ever seen. Had to be 4mm long at least.
      But, seriously Adrian, you shattered my hopes there. I was all, “YAY! A COMMENT WITH KNOWLEDGE!” And then there was no knowledge.
      Thanks for playing, anyways 😛

  1. Ted C. MacRae November 1, 2010 at 4:28 PM

    No such term in A Dictionary of Entomology (Gordh & Headrick 2001). I’ve always seen it in the context of the soil fauna in reference to mites and primitively wingless hexapods.

    • TGIQ November 1, 2010 at 5:07 PM

      Thanks for checking the G&H ref for me (I don’t have a copy here at home). I always see the term in the context of soil too, but there are herbivorous folliage-feeding (i.e., above-ground) mites; would they not be included with the “micros”? What about aphids? Tiny ichneumonids? Weensy beetles? Fruit flies? If it’s soil-only, that works for my personal needs, but it feels counter-intuitive based on the word itself. Sigh. Today’s work has largely amounted to a futile exploration of poorly/un-defined ecology jargonsemantics. *facepalm*

      • dragonflywoman November 1, 2010 at 8:43 PM

        This isn’t going to be the information you’re looking for either, but aquatic entomologists define “macroinvertebrate” as any invert you can see with the naked eye. I have crap distance vision, but I have super ninja awesome vision when it comes to very small things up close. So, the tiny .1mm wasp I just happen to notice crawling across the paper I was writing on earlier – does that count? Am I classifying things as macroinverts that no one else even sees? Am I penalized with extra work when processing aquatic samples because I have better close-up vision than my colleagues? I think this definition is appallingly bad and completely depends on the person and how far along the blind – super ninja awesome vision continuum you fall. You might end up finding a similarly annoying definition in your search. I’m sorry.

  2. dragonflywoman November 1, 2010 at 8:44 PM

    PS: the collembolan is ADORABLE! Sminthurids rule!

  3. Morgan Jackson November 1, 2010 at 10:58 PM

    Microarthropod: A joint-legged invertebrate smaller than most, but which holds a majority position in the heart of any naturalist capable of observing said invertebrate!

    Just to be a devil’s advocate on the running definition involving soil, what about all those marine microarthropods (crustaceans, isopods, barnacles, etc.)? This is the maddening part of “defining” a group of taxa, where does one “group” being and the other end? Good luck with your hunt, but perhaps avoiding the term altogether might prove the easiest!

  4. TGIQ November 2, 2010 at 10:57 AM

    Can I cite you on that definition, Morgan? 😛
    I think the conclusion from this discussion is, “a microinvertabrate is whatever the heck I want it to be within the parameters of my study system”.
    So there.

  5. TGIQ November 2, 2010 at 5:25 PM

    Seriously, this is getting annoying. I can hardly say “no studies have been performed on XYZ using macroarthropods”, if I can’t define a “macro” arthropod.

  6. Morgan Jackson November 3, 2010 at 8:03 PM

    You most certainly can cite me on that, although I can’t promise any credibility (yet)!

    Remember, the sweet thing about not being able to find a suitable definition for a term you want to use despite your best efforts means you get to set the definition! I propose sending it off to Webster’s (or at least and cement yourself into literary history!

  7. FormicidaeFantasy November 5, 2010 at 9:05 AM

    There’s a quasi definition of at least Dutch microarthropods in here:

    Click to access fulltext.pdf

    I’m sure this doesn’t really help…

  8. FormicidaeFantasy November 5, 2010 at 9:35 AM

    Here are a couple more, if they help:

    – “Free-living forest soil mites and Collembola”

    Click to access 1933288.pdf

    – “Mites and Collembolans”

    Click to access 1937627.pdf

  9. FormicidaeFantasy November 5, 2010 at 9:38 AM

    Ok, sorry. Didn’t process your first sentence…

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  11. david winter November 8, 2010 at 4:04 PM

    Kampichlerand Bruckner (2009) Kampichler, Christian, and Alexander Bruckner. 2009. reckon microarthropods = mesofauna = 0.1 – 2 mm. Seems as close to a definition as exists.

    (BTW, just lumping collembola and mites as microarthropods really doesn’t work in New Zealand were we have 18 mm long springtails!)

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