Bristletail - unidentified [8 spp.] |

Bristletail, Newport Beach
© Chris Mallory

Bristletail (unidentified [8 spp.])

Arthropoda > Insecta > Microcoryphia > Machilidae

The Bristletails are a group of primitive wingless insects, easily identified by the presence of 3 "tails" and compound eyes that touch at the top of the head (the latter character separating them the Silverfish). Unlike Silverfish, Bristletails are rarely found indoors; instead, they can often be found in leaf litter or under bark or stones, where they feed on fungus, algae, decaying plants or dead insects. Two families occur in California. The Rock Bristletails (Meinertellidae) are represented by one species in the state, Machilinus aurantiacus, though I can't find any information on that species farther south than Shasta. In Southern California, the dominant family is the Jumping Bristletails (Machilidae) - easily distinguished from the former group by its habit of jumping in addition to the presence of scales at the base of the antennae. At least 8 species have been recorded from California, though not all of these may be present in Southern California: Mesomachilis leechi, Mesomachilis nearctica (recorded from the San Gabriel Mtns), Mesomachilis californica, Leptomachilis californica, Pedetontus californicus, Pedetontus schicki, Pedetontus yosemite, and Neomachilis halophila; identification of species based on photos is usually not possible. The life history of N. halophila is discussed in detail by Benedetti (1973). That species occurs in the high intertidal and supralittoral zones along shorelines of the west coast, and may be sympatric with P. californicus in that habitat.

1. Bowser, M. 2012. Checklist of the bristletails of America north of Mexico.
2. Carlton, J.T. (editor). 2007. The Light and Smith Manual: Intertidal Invertebrates from Central California to Oregon
3. Benedetti 1972. Population structure, activity pattern, and food of Neomachilis halophila (Thysanura: Machilidae) on a California sandy beach

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