Yellow Mite Magnification

VIDEO Eeeeewww! What microscopic mites get up to on our skin

What’s the smallest thing you’ve ever seen? The human eye is capable of seeing many small things like a grain of sand, or even a particle of dust floating in the air. But, there is an entire fascinating world of science that exists beyond what the naked eye can see. Scientists have developed tools that allow us to see some of the smallest things in the known universe—even individual atoms.

There’s more to you than just you

Our bodies are host to trillions of tiny organisms – like bacteria, fungi and viruses – some healthy and some not so healthy. In our digestive tracts there is a community of microbes that help break down and process the food we eat so that nutrients can be absorbed. But not all of the tiny organisms found in your body help you. Viruses are an example of a tiny organism that can make you sick. Scientists are continuously studying these organisms to better understand them and develop new treatments.

You “mite” not want to read this

In addition to the organisms dwelling inside of you, there are also communities of organisms that make their home on the outside of your body. One particular critter, named demodex folliculorum can frequently be found living on your eyelashes – hence its common name the eyelash mite. Sometimes up to 25 mites at a time can be found on one eyelash. 

Tiny Chefs

Many people don’t realize the important role microbes play in making many of the foods we commonly eat. Did you know that if it were not for the tiny yeast fungus, all of the bread we eat would be flat and hard? Yeast is added to dough where it creates carbon dioxide bubbles that make the dough airy and fluffy. Yogurt is another food that relies on the action of bacteria to make its classic texture and flavor. A kind of bacteria called lactic acid bacteria are added to milk where they ferment the milk sugar creating the soft gel-like texture – yum!

Edition: 
Phoenix
Tucson
Issue: 
January 2017