A number of biologists have commented on the ability of silverfish to survive long periods without feeding. Silverfish survive because they store a large quantity of food in their digestive system. Clyde Barnhart* made a comparative study of two species of silverfish and was surprised to note that one digestive organ, the crop, comprised about half of the digestive system. The crop in the silverfish, as in other insects, is a food storage organ. Larger food particles pass from the crop through a proventriculus that grinds food into small particles for more efficient digestion. The large food storage capacity of the crop allows food to pass into the midgut for continous digestion.
Why do silverfish have such a large storage capacity? Sweetman in his 1939 study observed that silverfish presented with a piece of dried beef would rapidly consume all and fight other silverfish for possession. Silverfish live in an environment with plentiful carbohydrate but more limite amounts of protein. Perhaps a large crop allows silverfish to claim more of the limited amount of protein when available.
CLYDE STIRLING BARNHART, SR. 1961. The Internal Anatomy of the Silverfish Ctenolepisma campbelli and Lepisma saccharinum. Annals Entomology Society of America. 54: 177-196.
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