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Ripple louse
Topic Started: Mar 27 2011, 01:11 PM (619 Views)
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Name: Ripple louse
Time: mid-late Carboniferous
Size: roughly 3cm long
Diet: Rope reed sap
Habitat: among rope reeds (in marshes and still or slow-moving freshwater); on Gondwana and from Central to southern Pangaea

Possibly distantly related to the arboreal sap mite, the ripple louse instead makes its home on top of the water. Like the water skaters of home earth, they rely on the surface tension of the water to slide across it and travel. Like their relatives they drink the sap of these plants, travelling across the water from rope reed stem to rope reed stem in order to do this. It is here when they are most vulnerable: harpoon mites attack these regularly on account of being easy to catch. However, the ripple louse has several survival strategies. Firstly, they climb up the rope reeds in order to lay their eggs en mass at the top, breeding asexually away from the predators below. Secondly, these eggs hatch in a swarm. These swarms turn the waters dark with their many bodies: ensuring that their are more than even the hungriest cephalostia or harpoon mite can eat. These swarms feed on what sap they can, breed and then slowly get picked off or die of fungal infection. Some do survive later than this, but they only have one other chance to breed again before they die of old age. Fortunately for the rope reeds, these swarms rarely do any harm, being unable to reach the majority of the plant below the water.

Unlike the hunter mite family and their relatives, which tend to look like a combination of an armoured annelid and a dragonfly nymph moving in an S-shaped pattern, the ripple louse is far closer to the basal sigmatatora, albeit with a more prominent shell.
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