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The adaptation of wood lice

While many people think of them as "bugs" or "insects," woodlice are actually arthropods--crustaceans in the family Isopoda. Woodlice adapted to live on land or amphibiously, rather than in water with their lobster and crab cousins.

Types

Woodlice, also known as pillbugs, sowbugs and roly-polys, are found on most continents, generally in humid habitats like arboreal forest or high tide-lines. The United States has more than a dozen native species, while New Zealand has only four.

General Adaptations

Woodlice have adapted to terrestrial life by developing the ability to recycle waste and absorb water from their surroundings. Woodlice also have both gills and organs that allow them to absorb oxygen directly from the air. Because woodlice need copper to transport oxygen, they have also adapted the ability to recycle their own waste to extract the copper they excrete.

Protective Adaptations

Some, though not all, species of woodlice are able to roll themselves into a ball to protect themselves from predators, somewhat like an armadillo does. When they roll into this protective posture, none of their legs or antennae protrude outside the protective sphere created by their segmented exoskeleton.

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About the Author

Wendy Anderson has been writing professionally since 2006, and has had poems, short stories and essays published in several local literary magazines. She has also been copy-editing for more than 15 years, and has worked with local and national authors and publishing houses. She holds a Bachelor of Arts in English from Lambuth College.