Mite Pockets really Pockets the Mites – By Girish Gowda

Mite Pockets in Skink…

During one of our recent field explorations with Nidus, we were bit worried about ticks as this landscapes has lots of them. Our team has already spent a few days exploring this forest before I arrive and a few team members were ‘infected’ with ticks, which was quite evident based on their movements. I was thinking if they infect us so badly, what will be situation of other species?  

On one of such exploration trips, we came across a skink among the leaf litter. We caught this individual for close observation and to my surprise, I saw some
interesting things attached in their axilla (armpits). Varad mentioned that these are mites in the mite pockets. I was curious to know what are these.

Did you know that some groups of lizards possess a cavity kind of folding in places like the neck, underarm, groin, which houses mites in big numbers in a single cluster?

The Explanation for the mite pockets is that they have evolved them as a form of damage limitation. The pockets provide optimum conditions for mites and infestations are concentrated in one cluster. The problem is contained in one place to avoid large-scale disruption of skin and other organs. The skin in the pockets has evolved to be resilient and recovers rapidly after the mites drop out.

Seen here is a mite pocket in Eutropis allapallensis which we observed during a biodiversity study in Goa


Article and images by

Girish Gowda
Insect/spider enthusiast