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Insect Identification Key
Order Thysanura: the silverfish and firebrats

A silverfish
This silverfish (Lepisma saccharina) has the teardrop body shape and the three, long, thin “tails” typical of members of this order. Photo credit: Sebastian Stabinger.

Based on your answers to the questions, you have identified your insect as being in the order Thysanura!

Members of this order include: silverfish and firebrats.

Etymology: Thysanura comes from the Greek thysano-, which means fringed or bristled, and ura, which means tail. Thysanura, therefore, means "bristled tail," which is a reference to the three caudal filaments characteristic of these organisms.

General characteristics:
• wingless
• small insects, no more than 10 mm long (2/5 of an inch)
• three long, thin “tails”: one caudal filament extending straight out from the rear of the abdomen, flanked by two similarly long cerci that fan off to the sides
• small compound eyes, but no simple eyes (ocelli)
dorsoventrally flattened, tear-drop shaped body
• body often covered with silver scales
• long, thin, multi-segmented antennae
• three pairs of tiny appendages (known as styli) near the end of the abdomen
direct development (nymphs and adults nearly indistinguishable)

Number of species worldwide: about 370

Classification:
Kingdom Animalia
   Phylum Arthropoda
      Subphylum Hexapoda
         Class Insecta
            Order Thysanura (also known as Zygentoma)

For a list of all of the orders in this key, click here: List of Orders.

Oops! If this doesn't appear to be the order for your insect, go back through the key and look more carefully at your insect while answering the questions again. Your perseverance will reward you!

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Photos at the top of this website are (from left to right): potato beetle (Leptinotarsa decemlineata) — photo credit: Scott Bauer, U.S. Department of Agriculture; ebony jewelwing (Calopteryx maculata)— photo credit: U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service; sweat bee (Agapostemon splendens) — photo credit: Natalie Allen and Stephanie Kolski, U.S. Geological Survey; preying mantis, monarch butterfly (Danaus plexippus), hellgrammite (aka toe biter) larva and eyed click beetle (Alaus oculatus) — photo credit: Leslie Mertz, DailyGraceCards.com; Halloween pennant (Celithemis eponina) — photo credit: Kay Meng, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.

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