Twitter Post Helps Scientists Discover a New Mite Species

Some tweets caught a scientist's attention while he was scrolling through the social media site.
Fabienne Lang
The tweet with the new mite speciesYatsume Project/Twitter

A new species of tiny black mites was discovered by scrolling through Twitter posts, said a scientist in Japan in an AFP report. 

Pooling their knowledge and efforts together, researchers in Japan and Austria confirmed that they've aptly named the new species "Ameronothrus twitter," as the tiny arachnids were discovered on the social media site. 

The previously unknown species was first spotted by Satoshi Shimano, a professor at Tokyo's Hosei University. Shimano stumbled upon an amateur photographer Yatsume Project's tweet on Twitter of a group of mites in a concrete crack in the fishing port of Choshi in Japan.

Speaking with AFP, Shimano said, "Immediately after I saw them, I thought they were different from others I knew and thought that they could be a new species." 

After getting a closer look in person, Shimano went back to his University team to share the news that he'd discovered a new type of mite. His co-researcher, Tobial Pfingstl, a professor at the University of Graz in Austria published the details of the new mite in the journal Species Diversity on March 22.

Mites of Twitter

Mites are small arachnids, or eight-legged anthropods, that are typically tiny. Most are usually harmless to humans, preferring to live in soil, plants, or on animals, but they can sometimes be associated with allergies in humans. These new little mites in question only span 0.7 mm, and are harmless to humans. They're live in groups and feed off algae and lichen that are found on coasts. 

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The mite's fun name is a nod to how social media can help scientists discover new species. Shimano hopes this story and the mites' name will inspire the millions of other Twitter-goers to keep an eye out for posts about potentially new species.

The team said that a similar kind of discovery via Twitter has only happened once before, a Kyodo News report explained. A team from the University of Copenhagen's Natural History Museum of Denmark discovered a new type of fungal parasite through photos posted on Twitter. They, too, added the word "twitter" to the new species' name. 

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