Micrographia, by Robert Hooke

Observ. lv. Of Mites.

The least of Reptiles I have hitherto met with, is a Mite, a Creature whereof there are some so very small, that the sharpest sight, unassisted with Glasses, is not able to discern them, though, being white of themselves, they move on a black and smooth surface; and the Eggs, out of which these Creatures seem to be hatch'd, are yet smaller, those being usually not above a four or five hundredth part of a well grown Mite, and those well grown Mites not much above one hundredth of an inch in thickness; so that according to this reckoning there may be no less then a million of well grown Mites contain'd in a cubick inch, and five hundred times as many Eggs.

scheme36

Notwithstanding which minuteness a good Microscope discovers those small movable specks to be very prettily shap'd Insects, each of them furnished with eight well shap'd and proportion'd legs, which are each of them joynted or bendable in eight several places, or joynts, each of which is covered, for the most part, with a very transparent shell, and the lower end of the shell of each joynt is fringed with several small hairs; the contrivance of the joynts seems the very same with that of Crabs and Lobsters legs, and like those also, they are each of them terminated with a very sharp claw or point; four of these legs are so placed, that they seem to draw forwards, the other four are placed in a quite contrary position, thereby to keep the body backwards when there is occasion.

Schem. 36.
Fig. 1.
The body, as in other larger Insects, consists of three regions or parts; the hinder or belly A, seems covered with one intire shell, the middle, or chest, seems divided into two shells BC. which running one within the other, the Mite is able to shrink in and thrust out as it finds occasion, as it can also the snout D. The whole body is pretty transparent, so that being look'd on against the light, divers motions within its body may be perceived; as also all the parts are much more plainly delineable, then in other postures, to the light. The shell, especially that which covers the back, is curiously polisht, so that 'tis easie to see, as in a convex Looking-glass, or foliated Glass-ball, the picture of all the objects round about; up and down, in several parts of its body, it has several small long white hairs growing out of its shell, which are often longer then the whole body, and are represented too short in the first and second Figures; they seem all pretty straight and plyable, save only two upon the fore-part of its body, which seem to be the horns, as may be seen in the Figures; the first whereof is a prospect of a smaller sort of Mites (which are usually more plump) as it was passant to and fro; the second is the prospect of one fixt on its tail (by means of a little mouth-glew rub'd on the object plate) exhibiting the manner of the growing of the legs, together with their several joynts.

This Creature is very much diversify'd in shape, colour, and divers other properties, according to the nature of the substance out of which it seems to be ingendred and nourished, being in one substance more long, in another more round, in some more hairy, in others more smooth, in this nimble, in that slow, here pale and whiter, there browner, blacker, more transparent, &c. I have observed it to be resident almost on all kinds of substances that are mouldy, or putrifying, and have seen it very nimbly meshing through the thickets of mould, and sometimes to lye dormant underneath them; and 'tis not unlikely, but that it may feed on that vegetating substance, spontaneous Vegetables seeming a food proper enough for spontaneous Animals,

But whether indeed this Creature, or any other, be such or not, I cannot positively, from any Experiment, or Observation, I have yet made, determine. But, as I formerly hinted, it seems probable, that some kind of wandring Mite may sow, as 'twere, the first seeds, or lay the first eggs, in those places, which Nature has instructed them to know convenient for the hatching and nourishing their young; and though perhaps the prime Parent might be of a shape very differing from what the offspring, after a little while, by reason of the substance they feed on, or the Region (as 'twere) they inhabite; yet perhaps even one of these alter'd progeny, wandering again from its native soil, and lighting on by chance the same place from whence its prime Parent came, and there settling, and planting, may produce a generation of Mites of the same shapes and properties with the first wandring Mite: And from some such accidents as these, I am very apt to think, the most sorts of Animals, generally accounted spontaneous, have their origination, and all those various sorts of Mites, that are to be met with up and down in divers putrifying substances, may perhaps be all of the same kind, and have sprung from one and the same sort of Mites at the first.

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Last updated Monday, March 17, 2014 at 16:42