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No. 51: May-Jun 1987

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The Mite Pockets Of Lizards

"Many lizards are infested by chig gers, the larvae of trombiculid mites, which feed on tissue fluid and cell debris. Surprisingly, lizards seem to go out of their way to attract the chiggers -- they have special mite pockets that provide a protected, warm and humid site. In many cases, the skin of the lizard also has smaller scales than normal and a good blood supply in the pocket, which enables the parasites to feed more readily."

There does not seem to be any advantage to the lizards providing plush accommodations for the chiggers. The chiggers can wreak havoc on their hosts in the form of skin lesions, allergic reactions, secondary infections, and the transmission of diseases. Nevertheless, some 150 species in 5 distinct lizard families possess mite pockets, which are often located in different places in different lizard species. Apparently, the mite pockets evolved separately several times. But why? (Benton, Michael J.; "The Mite Pockets of Lizards," Nature, 325:391, 1987.)

Comment. Why haven't the lizards evolved thicker skin or some sort of chemical defense instead of reducing their fitness with mite pockets? Or, are other factors operating?

From Science Frontiers #51, MAY-JUN 1987. 1987-2000 William R. Corliss

Science Frontiers Sourcebook Project Reviewed in:


  • "A sourcebook of unexplained phenomena is therefore a valuable addition to a collection of scientific literature. William R. Corliss has provided this in the past with his source books of scientific anomalies in several subjects, and now he has provided it for astronomy. He has done an excellent job of collecting and editing a large amount of material, taken in part from scientific journals and in part from scientific reporting in the popular or semi-scientific press." -- "The Mysterious Universe: A Handbook of Astronomical Anomalies", reviwed by Thomas Gold, Cornell University, in Icarus, vol.41, 1980

  • "An interesting, systematic presentation of unusual weather [..] This book is recommended for a general audience" --"Corliss, William R., Tornados, Dark Days, Anomalous Precipitation, and Related Weather Phenomena, Sourcebook Project, 1983.", revieweed in Choice, September 1983
  • "..the science is necessarily somewhat speculative, but Corliss's symthesis is based on reputable sources." -- "Corliss, William R. (Compiler). Lightning, Auroras, Nocturnal Lights, and Related Luminous Phenomena" reviwed by Joseph M. Moran, Univ. of Wisconsin in Science Books and Films, Sep/Oct 1983

  • "Before opening the book, I set certain standards that a volume which treads into dangerous grounds grounds like this must meet. The author scrupulously met, or even exceeded those standards. Each phenomenon is exhaustively documented, with references to scientific journals [..] and extensive quotations" -- "Book Review: The moon and planets: a catalog of astronomical anomalies", The Sourcebook Project, 1985., Corliss, W. R., Journal of the Royal Astronomical Society of Canada, Vol. 81, no. 1 (1987), p. 24., 02/1987