Insects and their Allies  


Like many of the entognathous hexapods, most diplurans are very small and usually less than 5 millimetres in length. Some species however are known to grow up to 50 millimetres. Some diplurans especially the larger species are sometime mistaken for earwigs (Dermaptera) due to their cerci, which sometimes appear darkened and pincer-like. Earwigs and diplurans can be distinguished from one another as the latter have no eyes. Diplurans have the following characteristics:

Heterojapyx evansi and Symphylurius species
Heterojapyx evansi (JAPYGIDAE)
and Symphylurius species (PROJAPYGIDAE)

  • Narrow, elongate body, usually colourless
  • Moniliform antennae
  • Eyes absent
  • 2 abdominal cerci sometimes in the form of darker coloured pincers

The species in the JAPYGIDAE family vary greatly in size but all can be recognised by their pincer-like cerci. Heterojapyx species are the most distinctive due to their robust appearance. Species within PROJAPYGIDAE can be distinguished by their larger heads and short thick cerci, which contain silk glands. Of the 2 known Australian species Symphylurius are considered rare.

Life Cycle
Fertilisation is similar to that of collembolans where a spermatophore is deposited on the substrate to be taken by a female. The female then lays her eggs in clumps in rotting vegetation or in crevices in the soil. Some species are known to guard the eggs and young larvae. Development is slow and the young diplurans resemble adults. Moulting continues throughout life and an adult may moult up to 30 times during its relatively short life of up to 1 year.

Most species of diplurans are herbivores and feed on a wide variety of plant matter. Those species with pincer-like cerci are carnivorous and wait buried in the soil with their tail on the surface and grab any small arthropods that come in contact with their forceps.

Most diplurans appear to be more common in the wetter forests of Australia. They are often found in small groups or colonies in the soil, in mosses and under rocks, logs or the bark of trees. A few species have also been found in the nests of ants and termites.

Diplura (live)
Campodea species (CAMPODEIDAE)