Traveling Blind


Electron Micrograph of Proturan Head, Legs and Thorax.
Image: Hädicke and Colleagues*

The Protura is an inegmatic group of tiny wingless soil dwelling arthropods that lack both antennae and eyes. Why do they lack antennae? How do they navigate the environment? Scientists have proposed that Protura use the tarsi of their front legs much like other insects use antennae. The front legs can extend beyond the front of the head and differ in both the quality and quantity of sensilla that are present. The small size of Protura limits the techniques that can be used to study them. A group of scientists has published a series of electron micrographs that show the sensory hairs present on the head, legs and body of the Proturan, Eosentomon pinetorum. Electron micrograph images are useful for mapping the location of sensillae. Subsequent studies that determine the response spectrum of a sensilla refer to locations on a micrograph so the same sensilla can be located and reproducibly studied in many individuals.

Christian W. Hädicke, Stephan M. Blank, Hans Pohl, Carsten H. G. Müller & Andy Sombke. 2015. Sensing the world without antennae and eyes: external structure and distribution of sensilla in Eosentomon pinetorum and on the protarsus of Acerentomon franzi Nosek. Soil Organisms. 87: 29–49.

About jjneal

Jonathan Neal is an Associate Professor of Entomology at Purdue University and author of the textbook, Living With Insects (2010). This blog is a forum to communicate about the intersection of insects with people and policy. This is a personal blog. The opinions and materials posted here are those of the author and are in no way connected with those of my employer.
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