The Insect That is Born Pregnant

About a species of mite that is born pregnant through the process of merokinosis, description of the insects.

THOMAS R. HENRY'S 10 BEST ODDITIES

The Insect That Is Born Pregnant. "Among nature's weirdest trick is the strange phenomenon known as merokinosis, reported for a single family of almost microscopic insects. The little creatures are fathers and mothers before they are born. They are a species of mite which infests grass. They belong to a family which, almost alone among insects, gives birth to living young.

"Nearly all insects are egg layers. The eggs, usually deposited in enormous numbers, hatch outside the body of the mother. Then the individuals go through a series of metamorphoses--nymph, larva, and the like--before reaching their own reproductive maturity.

"These grass mites, however, are born fully adult animals. A sack on the body of the female swells until it is about 500 times the original body size. It is filled with eggs and a nutritive fluid. Within this sack the eggs hatch and the new generation passes through all the ordinary stages of insect metamorphosis. Finally, when they are fully mature, the mother dies, the sack breaks, and the host of new mites emerges.

"It was long thought that the mites were striking examples of parthenogenesis, or asexual reproduction. Females isolated as soon as they were born gave birth to large numbers of young. Parthenogenesis is not uncommon among the lower animals. Invariably however, except in this one case, all the offspring are of one sex. The supposedly virgin birth families of the mites contain both males and females in various proportions."

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