The University of Texas at Austin

About Soil Critters

Mite crawling on soil particle

We are most familiar with a world that consists of the earth's surface, covered with bodies of water, plant and animal life, and the sky. We usually pay little attention to the rock and dirt we walk upon. This web site will focus on the complex living community, nay, civilization, that thrives beneath our feet. 

There's an amazing biologically diverse world of organisms living in healthy soil. We humans like to categorize them into groups according to their size. The BIG critters (we call them MEGA FAUNA) are ones that we easily see if we look at the soil beneath our feet - earthworms, dung beetles (if there's fresh poop around), ants. Some of the smallest organisms in soil are bacteria and fungi (we call them MICRO FAUNA). We need a microscope to see them. Mid-sized organisms are called MESO FAUNA. If they were running around on your desk, they would look like very tiny dots. If we observe and film them,using a dissecting microscope at a magnification range of 6x to 40x, they become actors in a fascinating movie.

Soil Critters is a film about some of the movie stars of the soil. Critter means living creature whether it be a bacteria, an insect, an elephant, or anything in between. We human "critters" are composed of more bacteria cells (in us and on us) than we are of human cells. Plants give a significant amount of the food they make (from sunlight and carbon dioxide in the air) to their roots to give to soil bacteria and fungi. It seems that we all are connected to the life in soil. Most of the time most of us don't even know such life exists.

Soil Critters gives you a glimpse of different meso fauna alive in soil. We are documenting who is there and how they interact. Watch the video. What did you learn about the different organisms? What role do they play in maintaining a healthy earth for all of us?

A special note regarding dung beetles: More formal words for poop are feces, dung, manure, scat - but they all mean poop - and poop from one is food for another. Do you know anyone who drinks beer - there's yeast poop in beer! Different species of dung beetles consume different kinds of poop. If you feel that's terrible, imagine what the yeast are thinking about us...

On this site:

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Collembola crawling along, still from video

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