Pauropods of Britain and Ireland
Pauropods are tiny myriapods, up to 1.5 mm long, with 9-11 leg bearing segments in the adult. The body shape is variable but in all but one of the British species they are elongate, whitish animals (Pauropodidae, top image, e.g. Pauropus huxleyi). The exception is the rather stout Trachypauropus britannicus (Eurypauropodidae, bottom image). They are widely distributed in leaf litter and soil and can sometimes be found under stones. All share the characteristic feature of their biramous antennae.
Occurrence in most environments is very patchy but there is a report of up to 250 per square metre in oak & pine stands in eastern North America. They are, however, rarely seen by most workers. According to Ulf Scheller, the best way to spot them on the underside of a stone is to blow gently over the surface. “They can be recognised immediately by the way they run. Although superficially like slow moving collembolans, pauropods run rapidly forwards, they stop they run backwards or twist their bodies in many directions.”
A widespread species that is relatively easy to identify is Allopauropus (Decapauropus) gracilis.
- Barber, A.D., Blower, J.G., Scheller, U. (1992). Pauropoda, the smallest Myriapods. Bulletin of the British Myriapod Group 8: 13-24.
- Oliver, P.G. & Amsden, A.F. (1982). The Pauropoda. Nature in Wales 1: 33-38.
- Scheller,U. (1990). A list of the British Pauropoda with a description of a new species of Eurypauropodidae (Myriapoda). Journal of Natural History 24: 1179-1195.