Monday, May 30, 2011

Animal Alphabet: I is for Isopod

This week's Animal Alphabet entry is not in itself an obscure creature. In fact, I bet you know these guys by one of their several familiar names: the pillbug, the doodlebug, the sowbug, the roly-poly, the woodlouse, the armadillo bug, the chuggypig, the ticklebug...

Let me refer to them by a more general name:

I is for Isopod

They're a common enough critter in the ground-cover and leaf-litter that probably every kid has played with them at some point. They're harmless and interesting, and they behave according to predictable instincts.

I probably spent hundreds of hours with these guys between ages three and thirteen.

Did you know they're not insects? They've got seven pairs of legs (insects have three) and no wings or winglike structures. In fact, the lowly isopod is a crustacean, more closely related to shrimps, crabs, lobsters, and crawdads than to beetles or even centipedes.

Did you, moreover, know they have closer marine relatives? In fact, there are gigantic marine isopods. (They also live in Lake Baikal.)

These guys do not look quite so harmless.

Seriously. They can weigh almost four pounds. No lie.

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