Oribatulidae Thor, 1929

Fischer, Barbara M. & Schatz, Heinrich, 2013, Biodiversity of oribatid mites (Acari: Oribatida) along an altitudinal gradient in the Central Alps, Zootaxa 3626 (4), pp. 429-454 : 450-454

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Oribatulidae Thor, 1929


Oribatulidae Thor, 1929

Oribatula amblyptera Berlese, 1916

Distribution: Northern Italy—Prov. Bergamo, Bolzano,Trento; Switzerland, Austria, Eastern Europe (Romania—Transylvania)

Habitat: unknown; preferably in xeric habitats (?)

Obergurgl area: pine forest at 2050 m (Zirbenwald)

Taxonomic remark: A synonym of Oribatula (O.) tibialis tibialis (Nicolet, 1855) according to Subías (2012); The morphological differences between the two species as given in Weigmann (2006) are clearly distinguishable in the present material.

Oribatula interrupta (Willmann, 1939)

Distribution: Europe, Mongolia

Habitat: in moss and lichen at alpine and subalpine regions Obergurgl area: pine forest at 2050 m (Zirbenwald), Caricetum at 2600 m (Hohe Mut)

Oribatula longelamellata Schweizer, 1956

Distribution: Central and Southeast Europe: Northern Italy—Prov. Bolzano; Switzerland: Grisons; Poland, Germany, Romania (Southern Carpathian mountains)

Habitat: moss and shrubs

Remarks: This species was described from Grisons, Switzerland and has been reported from other montainous regions in Central and Southeastern Europe. We recently recorded it in Northern Italy—Prov. Bolzano at the Resia Pass (Fischer & Schatz 2009) and in Pfelders Valley (Schatz & Fischer 2011) south of our investigation site, as well as in Vorarlberg, Austria (Schatz & Fischer 2013). All our findings of O. longelamellata were in the subalpine and alpine zone. In this study we found this species at all four altitudes. In the alpine meadows of Hohe Mut (2600 m) it is the second most common oribatid mite species and represents a quarter of all oribatid mite species in this habitat.

Oribatula tibialis (Nicolet, 1855)

Distribution: Holarctic

Habitat: in meadows, forests, moss and lichens, also arboricolous

Obergurgl area: pine forest at 2050 m (Zirbenwald), Nardetum at 2300 m (Schönwieskopf), Caricetum at 2600 m (Hohe Mut), Androsacetum alpinae at 2900 m (Liebener Rippe); previous studies: 1960–1980 m (meadows), pine forest at 2050 m (Zirbenwald), 2100–2190 m (dwarf shrub community), 2250–2340 m (alpine meadows with lichen communities), 2500 m (scree slope), 2550–2650 m (alpine meadows), 2800–3100 m (Androsacetum alpinae)

Nomenclatural remark: Oribatula (O.) tibialis tibialis (Nicolet, 1855) according to Subías (2012); see also remark at O. amblyptera

Phauloppia nemoralis (Berlese, 1916)

Distribution: Europe

Habitat: preferably in xeric habitats, in lichens and moss, forest soils Obergurgl area: pine forest at 2050 m (Zirbenwald)

General considerations

Compared with the previous investigation in the area (Schatz 1978, 1979), the species composition of oribatid mites seems to shift over the years notably. Though this might partly be caused by taxonomical and systematical changes and corrections, we detected displacements in the four most abundant species when comparing studies carried out in the 1970 s and 2010 ( Tab. 2 View TABLE 2 ). In the pine forest, the number of recorded species increased from 54 (1979) to 73 (2010). The formerly most abundant species T.velatus sarekensis is now, 30 years later, only at place 29. For a long time O. (Oppiella) uliginosa has been considered as synonym of O. (Oppiella) nova , it was redescribed by Woas (1986), which lead to a broad acceptance of the validity of this species. Therefore, it is most likely that specimens identified as O. (Oppiella) nova found in the 1970 s in fact partly or totally belong to O. (Oppiella) uliginosa .

The most remarkable changes are noted in Androsacetum alpinae at Liebener Rippe: little more than half species detected in 1970 s (30 spp.) could be found in 2010 (16 spp.). In none of our samples T. velatus velatus was caught, instead T. velatus sarekensis was quite abundant with nearly 340 individuals per m 2, which corresponds with the 8 th most abundant oribatid mite of this community. The unexpected occurrence of O. sudetica and E. edwardsi on Liebener Rippe is discussed above. It is remarkable that species with very different ecological requirements coexist in this habitat, i.e. species that are adapted to xeric and rather dry habitats (e.g. O. reticulata , T. trimaculatus ), as well as species which prefer wet to moist habitats (e.g. O. sudetica , S. perforata ) and euryoecious species (e.g. T. velatus sarekensis , O. (Oppiella) nova ). This could be caused by the presence of different microhabitats due to periodically wet conditions in contrast to periods of sun-exposure.

The second most common oribatid mite in Androsacetum alpinae at Liebener Rippe in the 1970 s was Zygoribatula exilis . Thirty years later we did not find even a representative of the genus Zygoribatula in the soil samples of our study area. Jugatala cribelliger , the fourth most common oribatid mite seems to be new to the area, since it was not detected in the 1970 s. A remarkable shift is apparent especially at the highest altitude when group spectra of oribatid mite communities in previous studies are compared with recent investigations ( Fig. 10 View FIGURE 10 ). Recently Poronota and pycnonotic Apheredermata (mainly represented by T. velatus sarekensis ) were found on Liebener Rippe. That follows the findings of Maraun & Scheu (2000) which stated that Poronota and Tectocepheus dominate in sites where total oribatid mite density is low. Forty years ago the group spectrum was more divers with Poronota, pycnonotic Apheredermata, Enarthronota, Desmonomata and Eupheredermata, each of these groups represented by at least three species. Enarthronota are known to be very sensitive to (mechanical) disturbances, probably they are also a suitable group to detect other changes in a certain habitat.


We thank Erwin Meyer for helpful comments and discussions, Gerald Andre for fieldwork-assistance, Kristian Pfaller, Medical University of Innsbruck, for SEM-pictures, Valerie Behan-Pelletier, Ottawa, Canada, for revising material of Mycobates sp. and Irene Schatz for comments and linguistic corrections. This work was financially supported by the Austrian Science Fund (FWF, project number P 22537).


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TABLE 2. Four dominating species in Zirbenwald (pine forest, 2050 m a. s. l.) and Liebener Rippe (Androsacetum alpinae, 2900 m a. s. l.) in 1979 and 2009.