Impurest's Guide to Animals #169 - Common Pill Bug

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Edited By ImpurestCheese

So tired, can’t write anymore, too many newts…and wedding dresses and in my dreams newts wearing wedding dresses (I blame too much mescal myself). Fatigue aside, last week we met the Russian Desman, an adorable mole living on the bank of a river. This week we have a sought of roly-poly request from @queen_marceline. Hope you guys enjoy.

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Issue #169 - Common Pill Bug

[1]
[1]

Kingdom – Animalia

Phylum – Arthropoda

Class – Malacostraca

Order – Isopoda

Family – Armadilliidae

Genus – Armadillidium

Species – vulgare

Related Species - The Common Pill Bug is one the many members of the Family Armadilliidae, known colloquially as Pill Woodlice or Pill Bugs

Range - Common Pill Bugs are native to Europe, with a range that stretches from the Mediterranean Basin up to Southern Scandinavia, the UK and Ireland. This species was also accidentally introduced to California where it has managed to become fairly common.

Roll up, Roll up.

The Common Pillbug is a small (around 2mm in length) terrestrial isopod with a slate grey carapace, often marked with white or brown calcium deposits, split into nine shield like plates, with each one, with the exception of the tail plate and the head, supporting a single pair of legs. Pillbugs can be distinguished from other woodlice by their relatively rotund bodies, and can be distinguished from the similar pill millipedes by counting the body plates, with the latter group possessing twelve to fifteen segments. While pillbugs, and by extentison all other woodlice, are terrestrial, they need to stay in moist places to reduce the amount of water they lose from surface evaporation. Water is important in aiding the pillbug’s respiration through an organ similar to a gill known as an air tree, and that requires oxygenated air to diffuse through water to reach it (2).

The differences between a Common Pill Bug and the Pill Millipede Glomeris marginata [2]
The differences between a Common Pill Bug and the Pill Millipede Glomeris marginata [2]

Common Pillbugs are herbivores, feeding predominantly on decaying vegetation and fungi, but also occasionally grazing on lichens and fruit such as strawberries. To defend itself the Common Pillbug coils into a ball (this behaviour earned the species the alternate colloquial name of ‘Roly Poly Bug’, with the flexible armour plating on the outside used to deter predatory attacks, and also to reduce the loss of water when caught in particularly dry weather. Despite these defences, pill bugs often fall prey to the Woodlouse Spider (Dysdera crocata), whose large fangs are adapted to punch through woodlouse armour to inject a fast acting paralytic venom into its prey’s bloodstream.

Common Pill Bugs mate in the spring, with the male targeting recently moulted females to transfer a packet of sperm to the female’s gonopores. While some species of woodlouse are monogomus, the male will leave after mating to find more females that will be receptive to his advances (3). The female after her eggs have been fertilised are kept in a pouch on the underside of her body called the marsupium. Upon hatching the larvae remain close to their mother’s marsupium, at least for the first three to four moults, before finally becoming fully independent and leaving to fend for themselves.

Five Defensively Curled Creatures

The first creatures that come to mind when people think about defensive coiling in animals are the armadillos. Ironically of the 21 extant species of armadillo, only two; the Southern three-banded armadillo (Tolypeutes matacus) and Brazilian three-banded armadillo (T. tricinctus), engage in such behaviour. Other species depend on their armour plating or fleeing into a burrow or similarly impassable barrier to defend themselves from predators,

Pangolins are also known for coiling up into armoured defensive balls, as well as being the only mammals to possess scales. This behaviour is the source of their name, with Pangolin being a variant of the Malay word ‘penggulin’ which translates to ‘something that rolls up’ (4).

The Armadillo Girdled Lizard (Ouroborus cataphractus) is another species that utilises defensive coiling as a defence, something that led to the naming of this species. When threatened the lizard grasps its tail in its mouth and forms a wheel like structure with the spines and plates of its back facing its attacker.

[3]
[3]

Not every animal that coils into a defensive position is armoured. The caterpillar of the Mother of Pearl Moth (Patania ruralis), when threatened by a predator, anchors its tail to the ground and recoils rapidly to form a wheel with its body, kick starting the rolling behaviour (5). By forming an ad-hoc wheel, the caterpillar can move up to 40 times faster than it could by simply walking.

Like the caterpillar, the Vampire Squid (Vampyrotheuthis infernalis) is another relatively unarmoured animal that practices defensive coiling when attacked. By inverting its arms and revealing an array of menacing (but soft) spikes that line its tentacles, the squid looks far bigger than it actually is. In addition to changing the animal’s size, the inverted arms also mask the animal’s photophores, allowing the Vampire Squid to quickly fade into the background.

[4]
[4]

Bibliography

1 -www.arkive.org

2 - https://www.pugetsound.edu/academics/academic-resources/slater-museum/exhibits/terrestrial-panel/common-woodlouse/

3 - http://animaldiversity.org/accounts/Armadillidium_vulgare/#reproduction

4 - Judy Pearsall, ed. (2002). Concise Oxford English Dictionary (10th ed.). Oxford University Press. p. 103

5 - http://iopscience.iop.org/article/10.1088/1748-3182/6/2/026007/meta;jsessionid=B7FB1A9DF4ED3736592FBF584AFD6E2E.c5.iopscience.cld.iop.org

Picture References

1 - https://farm2.staticflickr.com/1047/1096722226_8e2b4a6683.jpg

2 - https://s-media-cache-ak0.pinimg.com/originals/21/4e/68/214e68ca37ff748fcb62f01aa56c1056.jpg

3 - http://www.craftynitti.com/wp-content/uploads/2013/04/armadillo-lizard-with-spiny-tail.jpg

4 - https://s-media-cache-ak0.pinimg.com/564x/c8/e5/59/c8e55905a50100350592d6db014c5cd7.jpg

And now, with my work done I’m going to curl up in a ball until next week. Once that arrives I’ll be ready to take a meat eating bull by the horns and throw it into next issue, but until then make sure to critic, comment and suggest future issues as well as making sure you check past issues in Impurest’s Bestiary

Many Thanks

Impurest Cheese

Want more IGTA? For another armoured invertebrate, click here to see the incredibly tough Lined Chiton. Or for another isopod, albeit one a lot less friendly, click here to see the terrible Tongue Eating Louse

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Pipxeroth

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Mini armadillos, sweet

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@pipxeroth: Ah just wait till you see a fairy armadillo...

There are Isopods that are bigger than this....
There are Isopods that are bigger than this....

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Amendment50

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#4 Amendment50  Online

I thought this was a pretty normal one until I got to the Armadillo Lizard. Thing wants to be Sonic the Hedgehog lol. Goofiest looking defense mechanism ever

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Pipxeroth

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@impurestcheese: Okay, that one just straight up looks like a legitimate pokemon, lol.

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deactivated-5a2b0053414c5

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Kewl~

Was kinda shocked when I learned the were isopods instead of insects for the first time lol.

Like mini these;

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WollfMyth209

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Awesome.

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deactivated-5b5405244e89c

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Rollie Pollies !

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@amendment50: I'm always looking for something odd to add in these. Personally I think its Sonic crossed with the Midgard Serpent

@pipxeroth: Yep it does. Being Pink helps its case I suspect.

@queen_marceline: Well most people don't think of crustaceans as living far from water. Mini Giant Isopods? Why not!

@wollfmyth209: Cool thanks for the comment

@bella_blackstar: Indeed!

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Green_Tea

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That armadillo lizard has me interested tbh. Never knew rolling around would save your life xD

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I've seen these in person more than any other animal that's been featured here.

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@xwraith: Yeah they aren't rare or anything, just endearing. Thanks for the comment

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"you fiyed!"

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#15 MajinBlackheart  Moderator

Definitely common in Florida, although I used to see a lot more as a kid (but maybe that's because I'm not outside playing anymore).

And yes, they are endearing. That's the perfect word.

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@amazing_webhead: Sir Alan is that you?

@jloneblackheart: Could be, there are a lot of species dotted around the world, as far as I know this species hasn't reached Florida but who knows

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Anna_Karenina

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#18  Edited By Anna_Karenina

Well, that's an odd coincidence... I was going to ask you if you have already made a post about Vampyroteuthis infernalis (I just love that name, lol!), and now you just mentioned it.

Here's a fun fact: Tolypeutes spp. and Armadilliidae species have similar common names (tatu-bola and tatu-de-jardim) here in Brazil because they both exhibit this defensive behaviour of coiling into spheres and rolling.

And I would love to have a pangolin as a pet. They're so cute!

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#19  Edited By ImpurestCheese

@amazing_webhead: Ah! My mind went straight to the apprentice and Sir Alan Sugar

@anna_karenina: The Vampire Squid is scheduled for an issue, its been mentioned twice and I've been meaning to get round to it for a while.

Also the tatu-bola and tatu-de-jardim connection is cool. Interesting indeed that one is the Garden Armadillo and the other is a Ball Armadillo. :-). And yes if they were easier to keep I'd love a pangolin, its terrible that they are so endangered due to hunting for food and traditional medicine.

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#20  Edited By FicOPedia
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@ficopedia: Hmm that seems to be an American thing. Thanks for the comment

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XLR87T3

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#22  Edited By XLR87T3
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IceDemonKing

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This looks like something they put in cigarettes.

Though I've never seen an actual cigarette up close or what they put in them.

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@xlr87t3: Yep I am ?

@jaycool2: Yeah trust me it isn't anything akin to a pillbug

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FicOPedia

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@ficopedia: Hmm that seems to be an American thing. Thanks for the comment

Very well could be. Being a rhyming name, "Rolly Polly" just makes a kid laugh. It backfires though- the kid starts digging for them, and moms have to continually yell, "Don't pick that up! Don't touch that! What are you doing?" lol

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ImpurestCheese

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@ficopedia: Woodlice in general are harmless, just don't eat them though they taste like urine and vinegar when raw.

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XLR87T3

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#27  Edited By XLR87T3
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FicOPedia

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@ficopedia: Woodlice in general are harmless, just don't eat them though they taste like urine and vinegar when raw.

I don't want to know who discovered that. ;)

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ImpurestCheese

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@ficopedia: Yeah I've tested that statment. Never again

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#30  Edited By FicOPedia

@impurestcheese said:

@ficopedia: Yeah I've tested that statment. Never again

Vinegar I get, but how did you know what urine tastes like? o.O ;)

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@ficopedia: You mean you've never smelt really strong urine and got that sick dry taste in your mouth, or for that matter had someone shove your head down the khazi when younger

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@impurestcheese: I'm kidding- I figured you meant that it tastes like the smell of urine. To the other thing- no, that's never been done to me.

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Adorable little thing! Really pretty too with all those lovely plates overlapping each other.

Also, I too have now imagined newts in wedding dresses. Thank you for the imagery.

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@ms-lola: You're welcome. And yes I agree with you, woodlice are adorable indeed ?

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#36 MajinBlackheart  Moderator

@jloneblackheart: Could be, there are a lot of species dotted around the world, as far as I know this species hasn't reached Florida but who knows

Finally saw one again here in Florida. I'm not crazy lol. Wish you were around to see it.

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