Behavior And Reproduction

Some species burrow in loose soil, making wormlike movements with their long, slender bodies. They are also capable runners on the surface of the ground. Other species have powerful legs for pushing their way into cracks and pockets in the soil, but they are very poor runners. Many species use their mouthparts to help them dig through the soil.

Diplurans locate their food sources, or prey, with their antennae, or feelers, and stalk them until they are within striking distance. Species that have pincherlike structures at the tip of the abdomen sometimes use them to capture prey but more typically employ them for defense. Diplurans with long, flexible, taillike structures quickly lose them if they are grasped by a predator (PREH-duh-ter), hunting them for food. This allows the dipluran to escape.

Male diplurans attach sperm packets to the soil. Females search for these sperm packets and collect them to fertilize their eggs. They lay their eggs on stalks in small clutches, or groups, on leaf litter or in small cavities in the soil. In some species the female protects her eggs by wrapping her body around them. She will stay with them for a short time after they hatch.

Young diplurans, or larvae (LAR-vee), look like small versions of the adults. They are unable to feed until after they shed their external skeleton, or molt, for the first time. Diplurans reach adulthood after their second molt. Adults live as long as two years and continue to grow and molt for their entire lives. Continued molting allows them to replace broken or worn-out legs and other body parts.

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