Some astigmatic mites display dimorphic deutonymphs (hypopus) which are facultatively intercalated in their development cycle between protonymph and tritonymph. Such species, among them Glycyphagus privatus and Glycyphagus ornatus show three potential developmental pathways: (1) to bypass the hypopus stage and develop directly from the protonymph to the tritonymph and the subsequent reproductive stage when conditions are favorable; (2) to leave the original site and disperse by means of a phoretic hypopus morph; or (3) to survive inimical life conditions in the natal environment by means of a sedentary hypopus morph. By producing both dispersing (and afterwards at the arrival site reproducing) and sedentary (drought-hardy and dormancy-prone) progeny each single parent attains a selective advantage through a risk-reducing insurance against irregularly fluctuating and often fatal life conditions of their temporary patch habitats. Both genetic heterogeneity and ecological plasticity for hypopus production adapt the Glycyphagus species to cope with variation in the environment. Both traits (for dispersal and survival) are extremely polymorphic with genotypes ranging from low to high propensities for production of each hypopus type. There is a substantial environmental effect on genetic expression such that expression of both morphs depends on the quality of food. This ecological response allows a fast reaction of the mite to the current trophic environment. Phoretic morphs are predominantly expressed at favorable trophic conditions and sedentary morphs at poor trophic conditions. Ecological influences may override genetic propensities and vice versa. Although selection imposed by changing environmental patterns adjusts the frequencies of genotypes over generations and provides for long-term adaptation, the short-term process of environmental induction adapts the population within a generation to transient-habitat disturbances. The interaction of genetic and ecological determinants explains the varying proportions of directly developing mites, phoretic hypopodes, and sedentary hypopodes, in a population at any moment.
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Vol. 57 • No. 4