Archaeognatha

(Bristletails)

Helmut Sturm

University Hildesheim, Germany

The Archaeognatha (Microcoryphia; part of the subdivided order Thysanura) are apterygote insects with a body size between 6 and 25 mm and a cylindrical shape (Fig. 1). The eyes are large and contiguous, and there are two lateral and

FIGURE 1 A male archaeognathan (Machilis germanica), body length ca. 12 mm, lateral view; for details see Fig. 2.

one median ocelli (small single eyes with a single beadlike lens). The flagellate (whiplike) antennae extend one-half to three times the length of the body. The mouthparts are ectognathous (freely visible) and the mandibles are linked with the head by a monocondylic joint (i.e., one point of attachment). Some authors believe that this feature distinguishes the Archaeognatha from all other ectognathous Insecta. The seven-segmented maxillary palps are longer than the legs. The thoracic tergites II + III are in lateral view strongly arched, and the two or three tarsal segments of the legs are rigidly united. Some taxa have additional scopulae (dense brushes of specialized hairs) on the distal end of the third tarsal segment. There are mostly pairs or double pairs of eversible vesicles on the coxites of the abdomen (Fig. 3). On each of the abdominal coxites II to IX, styli (pointed, nonarticulated processes) are present (Fig. 3).

Females have two long gonapophyses on each of the abdominal segments VIII + IX, forming the ovipositor. The penis of the males on abdominal segment IX varies in length, and in Machilidae it is fitted with paired parameres on abdominal segments IX or VIII + IX. The three filiform and scaled caudal appendages (one long filum terminale and two laterally inserted cerci) are directed backward. Tergites, cerci, and coxites are always scaled. The molts continue in adult stages. Many species are petrophilous (living on and under stones). The order comprises about 500 species in two families (Machilidae and Meinertellidae).

FIGURE 2 General structure of Archaeognatha, semidiagrammatic. (a) Lateral view. (b) Dorsal view, color pattern of dorsal scales intimated. (Reprinted from Deutsche Entomologische Zeitschrift 48, p. 4, © 2001 by Wiley-VCH, with permission.)
Archaeognatha

FIGURE 4 Mating position of M. germanica, dorsal view. The male has drawn out a secreted thread, deposited three sperm droplets on the thread, and taken up a U form. The ovipositor of the female is touching one of the sperm droplets.

FIGURE 3 Abdominal coxites III of M. germanica, ventral view. The eversible vesicles can be exserted by increasing the inner pressure and retracted by muscles.

FIGURE 4 Mating position of M. germanica, dorsal view. The male has drawn out a secreted thread, deposited three sperm droplets on the thread, and taken up a U form. The ovipositor of the female is touching one of the sperm droplets.

FOSSIL RECORD, SYSTEMATICS, AND BIOGEOGRAPHY

The fossil record of Paleozoic and Mesozoic apterygotes is poor, and many of the fossils of ectognathous representatives cannot be clearly assigned to extant orders. From the Mesozoic, the only archaeognathan fossil is Cretaceomachilis libanensis from the lower Cretaceous of Lebanon. For the Cenozoic period, there are many fossils of Archaeognatha, most being amber inclusions. For example, from Baltic amber (ca. 35 mya) seven species of Machilidae are known. All extant forms and the fossils from the Cretaceous and the Tertiary can be included in the superfamily Machiloidea. This group includes two families, the more primitive Machilidae (46 genera and some 325 species), with three subfamilies (Machilinae, Petro-biinae, Petrobiellinae), and the more derived Meinertellidae (19 genera and some 170 species).

The Machiloidea are distributed worldwide. Only the Meinertellidae occur in South America, the Caribbean, South Africa, Australia, and Melanesia. Both Machilidae and Meinertellidae occur in the United States.

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