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Proturans: Protura

Behavior And Reproduction

Proturans move slowly through the soil with their forelegs, or front legs, held out in front of the head, while the middle and hind legs are used for walking. Some species curl the tip of the abdomen over the head to discharge a sticky fluid in the direction of their enemies. Occasionally, proturans gather together in large groups, making them easy to see.


The name Protura comes from the Greek words protos, meaning "first" and oura, or "tail." In Europe, Proturans are called telson tails. "Telson" is simply another word meaning "end," or tail, referring to the end segment of a proturan. The Italian scientist Antonio Sylvestri first discovered them in leaf litter in 1907 near Syracuse, New York. Since then they have been found throughout the world and are among the most abundant arthropods living in soil and leaf litter. Leaf litter samples collected in the eastern forests of North America sometimes have as many as 150 individual proturans, representing several different species.

The life cycles are known only for a few species. Among proturans, there is no courtship, or activities meant to attract a mate. Males deposit packets of sperm on the ground, which are later picked up by the females. Eggs are laid in early spring. Proturans are the only insectlike animals that add body segments and structures as they grow. Larval proturans, or young proturans, look very similar to the adults but have only eight abdominal segments. As they grow and molt, or shed and replace their skeletons, they add segments. Only after they molt for the fifth time do they reach adulthood. It is unknown whether proturans keep growing and molting after they become adults.

Species living close to the surface in cooler habitats produce one generation per year and spend the winter as adults, while species living deep in the soil may reproduce year-round. Some species spend the summer near the surface and migrate deeper into the soil with the approach of winter.

Additional topics

Animal Life ResourceInsects and SpidersProturans: Protura - Physical Characteristics, Behavior And Reproduction, No Common Name (sinentomon Yoroi): Species Account - GEOGRAPHIC RANGE, HABITAT, DIET, PROTURANS AND PEOPLE, CONSERVATION STATUS