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Diplurans are minute, cryptic creatures that live in soil (usually moist), leaf litter, or humus. They are small, usually less than 7 mm in length; pale in color; usually lack scales on the body; lack both ocelli and compound eyes; have one-segmented tarsi; mandibulate mouthparts that are withdrawn into the head; long, multi-segmented antennae; have two caudal filaments or appendages; and have styli present on abdominal segments 1-7 or 2-7. They are similar in appearance to small silverfish or bristletails, which have 3 caudal filament, and typically have scales on the body. There are only 5 families in North America.

Although not much is known about the biology of many diplurans, most are predators and their diet probably includes a variety of other soil-dwelling arthropods such as collembola, mites, symphyla, insect larvae, and even other diplurans. Similar to some other primitive wingless insects, diplurans have external sexual reproduction. The male deposits a tiny packet of sperm (a spermatophore) on a short stalk that is raised slightly above the ground. The male may produce as many as 200 spermatophores a week because the viability of these packets is short lived, only lasting about two days. When a receptive female encounters these sperm packets, she fertilizes herself by gathering the spermatophores with her genital opening. The resulting eggs are laid in clumps or on small stalks in little cracks or cavities in the ground.

Probably the easiest way to collect diplurans is by collecting litter and soil samples and running them through a Berlese funnel.



Diplura-info, Discover Life web site