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280 days of Urbpandemonium #39

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In Boston--or really any populated place in North America--if you flip over a log you will likely see one of three species of small 14-legged crustaceans scurry away from the light. All three are European species, brought across the Atlantic in the soil ballast of ships. Of these, only one can roll itself into a perfect ball with no appendages sticking out.

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This is Armadillidium vulgare, the pillbug, roly-poly, doodlebug, potato bug, et cetera et cetera, with so many distinct common names that they are used to determine regional dialects. Can anyone tell me what the whitish jazz on this one's belly is? I gather this is the "pleopod" region of the animal, but I'm not sure of what anatomical function we're looking at here.

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I swear that for most of my life I only encountered non-rolling isopods, but that seems so unlikely, considering how common these little guys are.


( 3 comments — Leave a comment )
May. 14th, 2015 12:55 am (UTC)
Isn't the white stuff where the book lungs are?

I grew up with spherical ones, in the East bay, but here I am about eighty miles away and we have the kind that roll only partway (really most of the way, but not tight in a true ball). Also I grew up calling them sowbugs (which sounds like a good name for the kind that roll partway), but hereabouts people mostly call them roly-polies (which sounds like a good name for the kind that makes a true sphere).

I'm a bit shocked to learn they're all European transplants. Also, they annoy me sometimes nowadays because they are so numerous and they positively infest certain parts of the garden. Where I grew up there were fewer of them. It was more inland and drier in the summer, I wonder if that's why, or if the less spherical ones are more gregarious by nature?

so many questions for the little isopods!
May. 14th, 2015 10:36 am (UTC)
I've never seen one that go into a perfect ball, and I've seen lots and lots of them. I come from a very soggy country, after all.

So that's what a doodlebug is, eh?
May. 14th, 2015 09:15 pm (UTC)
Aw, roly polys! (That's what we called them in NY). I was just talking to someone here in MN about them and he didn't seem to know what the hell I was referencing. Finding them under things in the yard was a highlight of my childhood.
( 3 comments — Leave a comment )


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