Harvard University's Caribbean Insects: Thysanura
 

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Thysanura

Order:
Thysanura (silverfish)

Families:
At least two in the Dominican Republic: Nicoletiidae and Lepismatidae. Five families worldwide.

Description:
Flattened and elongate. Body usually covered with scales. Abdomen 11-segmented. Segments 2-7 each bear a single undivided ventral sclerite or sternite and a pair of coxopodites; styli on segments 2-9, 7-9, or 8-9. At the end of the abdomen are three tail-like appendages (two cerci and a median caudal filament). Mouthparts mandiblate and dicondylic. Compound eyes.

Habitat:
Found in caves, under stones, in leaf litter, under bark, in ant or termite nests, in mammal burrows, and in buildings.

Ecology:
The silverfish which live in buildings feed on starch-containing substances like books and book bindings, linens, silk, curtains, starched clothes, wallpaper paste, vegetables, and other starchy foods. Those which live outside of buildings feed on algae, lichens, or starchy material. Silverfish are very fast runners.

Silverfish have interesting mating behavior. The male produces a silk thread from the substrate to some point above it, and places his spermatophore (a packet containing sperm and nutritive substances for the female) underneath it. When the female walks underneath the thread, her cerci brush against it and she picks up the spermatophore. She then takes in the sperm through her genital opening, ejects the spermatophore, and eats the nutritive components.

Collection Methods:
Caught by hand, although they run quickly.

Resources:
Borror, Donald J., Charles A. Triplehorn, and Norman F. Johnson. An Introduction to the Study of Insects. 6th ed. Fort Worth, Texas: Harcourt Brace College Publishers, 1989. pp. 172-174.

Thysanura - more information on silverfish.

 

Please browse and download our Field Guides to insect families and see our Caribbean Taxonomic Literature lists for available PDFs.

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