Monday 4 October 2010

A dipluran

Lifting a stone sometimes feels like opening a door and peeking into an alien world. A world inhabited by shy, unobtrusive creatures, going about their business. Our lives might never cross even though we live so close to each other. One such creatures are the diplurans. You might have never heard of them - they were actually only discovered at the beginning of the 20th century - despite being cosmopolitan, most likely due to their soil-living habits. Diplurans are hexapods, the six-legged group of bugs to which the insects also belong. They are, in contrast to them primarily flightless, blind - they have no eyes or ocelli - and whitish in colour. They are often tiny (less than 5 mm), the one in the photo closer to 2 mm and have long, beaded antenna. Their most distinctive feature is the presence of two cerci at the end of their abdomen. Today, under the same stone where rove beetles were hiding some days ago, I found a pair of diplurans. They run frantically looking for a new hiding place, checking each piece of soil attached to the stone and keeping their large cerci lifted from the surface. I find it relatively easy to take photos of them as their colour contrasts sharply with the dark soil. Just 12 species have been described in the UK. The one above probably belongs to the genus Campodea. They are mainly detritus feeders - although some species are predators, feeding on mites and other small organisms - and lay their eggs in clusters. They moult many times throughout their lives and have some capacity for regeneration.
A fragment of an early note on British Campodeidae (from the Biodiversity Heritage Library; Bagnall (1915) Preliminary notes on British Campodeidae (Thisanura).The Entomologist Monthly Magazine, 51:262.


Antje said...

Aww, yes, I know them. They're adorable, especially running for cover with their cerci help up.

Africa Gomez said...

Yes, that keeping their cerci high up makes them look a bit baby-like, as it makes them look a bit wobbly! I think their cerci are very sensitive, maybe they keep them up like they were antennae, but they look disproportionately large for their size.