Monday Night Mystery: An Odd Beast

Tonight’s mystery is a classic “what is it?”, but with a philosophical twist:


1. What is it? (Order; 5 points)
2. Is it an insect? (1 point) Why, or why not? (4 points)

Points will be awarded to the first person to give the correct identifications, and to everyone whose justifications for 2) seem well-reasoned. Yeah, it’s subjective. But that’s kind of the point, isn’t it?

The cumulative points winner across all mysteries for the month of June will win their choice of 1) any 8×10-sized print from my insect photography galleries, or 2) a guest post here on Myrmecos.

Good luck!

15 thoughts on “Monday Night Mystery: An Odd Beast”

      1. This is a Campodeoidea, because it has long cerci, that are and not short or forceps-like (Japygoidea or Projapygoidea).
        Sperm accessory microtubules also support Diplura sister to Insecta (Dallai et al., 2011).

  1. Order Diplura, family Campodeidae. It’s a hexapod but not Insecta because the mandibles and maxillae are enclosed within the head, the flagellum has muscles in each segment, tarsi are 1-segmented, compound eyes are absent, and the tentorium is poorly developed.

  2. It is indeed a campodeid dipluran. Japygoids have the cerci robust and earwig-like, projapygoids and other campodeoid families have shorter cerci.

    As for whether it’s an insect: it was until the early 1990s (so the question of whether diplurans are insects arose about the same time as the oddly analogous question of whether balrogs have wings). I think that the excision of Collembola, Protura and Diplura from the insects may have been inspired by doubts about the monophyly of the broader Insecta, so the latter name was restricted to the more firmly supported ectognath clade. There were some compromises suggested – Kukalova-Peck, for instance, proposed a system in the 1980s where the name Insecta included diplurans but excluded Collembola and Protura.

    Whether Diplura are the sister taxon to insects in the more restricted sense or not is still uncertain. Some studies say they are, some say they’re closer to the Collembola and Protura (at least one said that they were closer to the Protura than the Collembola were).

  3. Wikipedia leads me to think that it’s a Diplura
    Not Anajapygidae – their cerci are short
    Not Japygidae – their cerci are sharpened

    It looks like it matches their description of Campodeidae, genus Campodea… but I can’t find a text to identify from there.

  4. Sorry, that’s campodeid = Campodeidae. Not surprisingly, I can’t tell the genus or anything from the photo, that would require me to count setae or examine tarsal claws or other such horrors.

  5. Michael Suttkus

    The Golden Guide to Insects has it, so it’s an insect. I don’t know how you could get more definitive than that. It’s not the Golden Guide to Insects and Other Stuff That Isn’t Insects. Scientists sure like to overthink these issues.

    1. Hi Michael,

      I just wanted to respectfully respond to what may superficially seem like a pontifical discussion. It is namely that these nomenclatural assignments convey an incredible amount of information! Take, say, if we wanted to discuss primates (my apologies for the vertebrate reference on this site 🙂 ). What species do we include? Rabbits? What would including rabbits mean for what we are trying to convey (rabbits–in a group known as lagomorpha–are the next most related group to primates). Do we, rather, list the hundreds of species instead of succinctly saying the word “primate”? What about the colour blue–do we include green? Why or why not?

      Even though I don’t always understand the conversations (and certainly not a lot the discipline-specific language used here), I value the importance of precise communication. That being typed, I also know that I am working on degree that people generally take to be as useless (a doctor of philosophy) that emphasizes the most precise dialog as possible 🙂



  6. I’m just going to chime in and say that I agree with Michael Suttkus’s point: Alex did indeed ask “Is it an insect?” and NOT “Is it a member of Insecta?” There is no distinct vernacular name for non-insectan hexapods (to be sure, most of these tiny creatures are never seen by anyone but specialists anyhow). But the vernacular word “insects” does cover them very handily and has been often used for them in the past. So don’t fight it, they aren’t Insecta but they’re insects.

  7. Unless you accept the Entognatha as a valid class, and I’m unconvinced, then the correct order for Campodeidae is Rhabdura Cook, 1896. One of two orders in the class Diplura.

    I would say this putative campodeid is certainly a dipluran and a crustacean (as are Insecta), but an insect only in Vashna’s sense (which has conisderable merit).

  8. Pingback: Answer to the Monday Quagmire – MYRMECOS - Insect Photography - Insect Pictures

Leave a Reply