Monday Night Mystery: A Wingless Wonder

Tonight’s mystery is a straightforward identification. What is this insect?

5 points for order, 5 more for genus/species. Points will be awarded only to the first commentator for each category, and only to guesses supported by relevant trait information.

The cumulative points winner for the month of November will win their choice of 1) any 8×10-sized print from my photo galleries, or 2) a guest post here at Myrmecos on a safe-for-work topic of their choosing.


photo details:
Canon EF 100mm f/2.8 macro lens on a Canon EOS 7D
ISO 100, 1/250 sec, f/14
illuminated by two remote Canon 430EX strobes in a white box

25 thoughts on “Monday Night Mystery: A Wingless Wonder”

  1. FormicidaeFantasy

    I’ll go with microcoryphia as the order because of the three “tails” and the humpbacked look, which distinguishes it from Thysanura.

  2. This is a firebrat, a relative of the silverfish.

    Order: Thysanura

    Species: Thermobia domestica

    Wingless. Body is brown with mottled markings, is scaly and elongate, ending in three long “tails” (actually two cerci and a median caudal filament).

    1. I stick with my description, but reneg on the firebrat. I say four-lined silverfish (Ctenolepisma lineata) (but I said “firebrat” with authority…did you like that? Just keepin’ you on your toes.) Superficially similar. Markings on the abdomen of the silverfish are more evenly spaced, finer, and the stripes are more pronounced.

      1. James.C. Trager

        Stripes more pronounced on the firebrat or on your second suggestion?

        I know very little about the taxonomy of these critters, but this looks more boldly patterned than the typical silverfish (if there is such a critter) I encounter in old buildings.

        1. I meant the striping pattern on the silverfish…the “stripes” on a firebrat look more “blobby” (although there’s a lot of variation depending on the life stage). I agree with you, though: the silverfish I see are almost always a near-uniform silver colour with very indistinct patterns. Hence my initial impression it was a firebrat.

  3. FormicidaeFantasy

    Actually, I’ll change that to Thysanura, because I may have misjudged the humback and the tails are more even in length than in Microcoryphia.

  4. (Attenborough voice) THIS…is a rock lobsta. Dooring times of loe tide like we’ah experiencing at tha moement, they DRAG themselves out of tha waves to bask on rocks like this one. If we’ah very quiet, we can heah him purring! Let’s listen.

  5. Thysanura, Lepismatidae, Ctenolepisma lineata based on the three very long cerci and the longitudinal lineate patterns in the scales.

    Good timing. I went to an interesting paper on Thermobia domestica yesterday. Some poor graduate student at Simon Frasier University has spent the last couple years trying to find the arrestment pheromone that results in aggregations of silverfish. No luck with any solvent but he finally figured it out anyway – and it is a fungus (and possibly a bacterium) that attacks cellulose.

      1. I don’t know about recognizing each other (I seem to remember that silverfish use silken threads in their mating), but when it comes time to stop moving, it is because they smell/taste a fungus that makes cellulose more digestable. That results in the aggregations that libraries and bibliophiles so loathe.

        Looks like you can find the preliminary results in Woodbury & Gries (2007) J Chem Ecol 33: 1351-1358, but I’m assuming the most recent results are not yet published.

        Gries lab papers were certainly one of the highlights of the Canadian Ent Soc meeting this year. I find the silverfish story especially interesting since the plane flights to and fro were made bearable by Richard Wrangham’s book ‘Catching Fire’ with its interesting hypothesis that it is cooking that makes us human. Now there is a similar hypothesis about what makes a silverfish a pest.

  6. Dang, sorry I missed this one. I’ve always had a perverse fondness for these little critters. Or as I like to sing at Christmas time:

    Silverfish,
    Silverfish,
    There’s Thysanura
    In the bathroom ….

  7. Pingback: Answer to the Monday Night Mystery – MYRMECOS - Insect Photography - Insect Pictures

    1. Julie, if you actually finish a song about silverfish, i hereby promise to perform and record it! (well not me, but my friends who sing carols every holiday).

  8. How’s this?

    City sidewalks
    Packed with snow now
    Nothing crawls through their cracks
    All the ants have turned in
    For the winter
    No more tree bugs
    Honey bee bugs
    They’re all done for the year
    But in my house one crawler creeps on!

    Silverfish
    Silverfish
    There’s Thysanura
    In the bathroom

    In the hall
    See them crawl
    They can outrun us all day!

    Though I’m beaming
    Mommy’s screaming
    ‘Cause she’s so scared of bugs
    And the dog sits and barks at the corner
    Daddy bought Raid
    And he just sprayed
    All the floors and the rugs
    But my little gray friends still survive!

    Silverfish
    Silverfish
    There’s Thysanura
    In the bathroom
    Never fear
    Bugs all year
    Even though winter is here!

  9. On second thought, maybe the first chorus should go “See them crawl/Up the wall.” I think it scans better than “In the hall/See them crawl.”

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