Hooded Tickspiders: Ricinulei
Hooded tickspiders are neither ticks, nor spiders. Like mites, their lineage is an ongoing debate, with the most recent phylogenetic analysis placing them as a sister group to… horseshoe crabs. Again: taxonomy! *throws hands in the air*
Ricinulei are not nearly as diverse as the other microscopic arachnids we’ve covered in this issue, and they tend to only occupy humid, tropical regions of South America and Africa. Considering the exclusively southern, tropical distribution on these two distant continents, it is believed that the Ricinulei lived in the tropical regions of the supercontinent Gondwana, and continued thriving after the continent broke up 180 million years ago.
Ricinulei Fun Fact! The common name “Hooded tickspider” comes from a special structure called a cucullus, which acts just like a hood! When lowered, it covers the mouth and chelicerae. As for “tickspider,” well, just look at it. What would you call it?