Overview

Brief Summary

Biology

Woodlice feed on dead organic matter, which they detect by means of taste and smell (2). During the breeding season, reproductive females develop a 'brood pouch', which consists of overlapping leaf-like structures known as 'oostegites', that form a 'false floor' below the body. The fertilised eggs pass into this fluid-filled chamber, and the young crawl out of the brood pouch when they are fully developed. Woodlice undergo a series of moults before reaching maturity, growing at each stage; the stages between these moults are known as 'stadia', and are generally similar in structure and appearance. Mature woodlice continue to moult. Prior to moulting, the calcium contained in the old cuticle is removed and stored as conspicuous white blotches, these blotches disappear after moulting as the calcium is used to reinforce the new cuticle (2). The rear part of the body moults a few days before the front half, and occasionally woodlice may be seen with half a pinkish body and half a 'usual' grey body for this reason (4). The discarded cuticle is frequently eaten by the newly moulted woodlouse (2).
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Description

Woodlice are not insects, but are crustaceans; more closely related to crabs and shrimps than insects. The body is divided into three main regions, the head, the thorax (known in woodlice as the 'pereion'), and the abdomen ('pleon') (2). The pill woodlouse is so called because it is able to roll into a ball when threatened; it is often confused with the pill millipede (Glomeris marginata) for this reason (3). This woodlouse is typically slate grey in colour, but red or patchy forms may arise (2).
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Distribution

National Distribution

United States

Origin: Native

Regularity: Regularly occurring

Currently: Present

Confidence: Confident

Type of Residency: Year-round

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Geographic Range

You have probably seen them in your basement or garden, for they live under stones and bark in damp places. While they exist in large numbers here in North America, they also reside in the wettest areas of Germany.

Biogeographic Regions: nearctic (Native ); palearctic (Native )

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Range

This species is very common in the south-east of England, is found in parts of western and northern England and becomes rare in Scotland (2).
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Physical Description

Morphology

Physical Description

Their light shell-like crustaceous exterior is usually a drab earthy color. Pill bugs found in North America range from gray to brown. However, those with habitats in Europe have large red dots, which give them protection by conferring a resemblance to black widow spiders. Pill bugs have five abdominal segments which are distinct dorsally. Their first antennae are vestigial.

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Ecology

Habitat

Habitat Type: Terrestrial

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Pill bugs hide in damp places during the day and are active at night. Under moist areas such as bark and stones, they make their burrow (living quarters.) One of the pill bugs' most surprising characteristics is that they have such a wide distribution pattern. "Home" can be a forest, garden, or basement.

Terrestrial Biomes: savanna or grassland ; forest

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Depth range based on 2 specimens in 4 taxa.

Environmental ranges
  Depth range (m): 229 - 1646

Graphical representation

Depth range (m): 229 - 1646
 
Note: this information has not been validated. Check this *note*. Your feedback is most welcome.

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Occurs only on calcareous soils, except in coastal areas (2), and is able to withstand much drier conditions than most other woodlice (3). It shows a distinct preference for chalky or limestone sites with stony turf (2).
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Migration

Non-Migrant: No. All populations of this species make significant seasonal migrations.

Locally Migrant: No. No populations of this species make local extended movements (generally less than 200 km) at particular times of the year (e.g., to breeding or wintering grounds, to hibernation sites).

Locally Migrant: No. No populations of this species make annual migrations of over 200 km.

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Trophic Strategy

Food Habits

A. vulgare, like most isopods, are omnivorous. They feed on fungi, live or dead plants and animals. Special treats for pill bugs are monocotyledonous leaves. All isopods increase decomposition by processing leaves through their alimentary canal. It is not uncommon for pill bugs to shift from one type of food to another, for during a drought they turn from being vegetarians into scavengers.

Primary Diet: carnivore (Scavenger ); herbivore (Folivore , Frugivore ); mycophage ; detritivore

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Associations

Animal / parasite / endoparasite
Prosthorhynchus formosus endoparasitises Armadillidium vulgare

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Ecosystem Roles

These animals are part of the community of species that break down dead plants and animals.

Ecosystem Impact: biodegradation

Mutualist Species:

  • Pillbugs and sowbugs have microbes in their guts that allow the crustacean to digest plant material.

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Predation

They are famous for curling up into a tight ball for a defense mechanism. Some may secrete a substance which discourages spiders. The most common defense among all of them is to remain inconspicuous.

Known Predators:

  • centipedes
  • spiders
  • ants
  • birds
  • amphibians
  • anything that eats invertebrates

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Life History and Behavior

Reproduction

A. vulgare reproduce on land as opposed to in water. Eggs develop in a brood pouch filled with fluid, from which fully developed young are released. They produce between one and two broods. The number produced depends on the size and condition of the female, who may cease to grow under stress due to excessive hydration, which reduces the chance of a second reproduction. Ironically, when the food supply is short, the offspring grow larger.

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Molecular Biology and Genetics

Molecular Biology

Statistics of barcoding coverage: Armadillidium vulgare

Barcode of Life Data Systems (BOLDS) Stats
Public Records: 1
Specimens with Barcodes: 15
Species With Barcodes: 1
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Barcode data: Armadillidium vulgare

The following is a representative barcode sequence, the centroid of all available sequences for this species.


There is 1 barcode sequence available from BOLD and GenBank.   Below is the sequence of the barcode region Cytochrome oxidase subunit 1 (COI or COX1) from a member of the species.  See the BOLD taxonomy browser for more complete information about this specimen.  Other sequences that do not yet meet barcode criteria may also be available.

CAACGTTGACTATTTTCAACAAACCATAAAGATATTGGGACTTTATATTTTGTATTTGGGGTTTGAGCAGGGGCTGTTGGGACTGCCCTT---AGAATAATTATTCGCACTGAATTAGGACAGCCTGGAAGTTTAATTGGAGAT---GATCAGATTTACAATGTAATTGTAACTGCTCATGCTTTTGTAATAATTTTTTTTATAGTAATACCTATTATAATTGGTGGATTCGGTAACTGGTTAATTCCATTAATA---CTAGGAGCCCCAGATATAGCTTTTCCACGGATAAATAATATAAGATTTTGACTTTTACCCCCTTCTTTAACTTTATTACTTAGAAGGGGATTAAGTTGAAAG---------------------------------------------------AGGAGTAGGAACAGGGTGGACAGTATATCC---------------TCCGCTGGCGTCAGGTGCATCTTTAGGGGCTGAAAATTTTATTCTACTATAATTAATATACGAGCAGCTGGAATCAGAATAGACCGTGTTCCTTTATTTGTTTGATCAGTAATAGTAACGGCTGTGCTTTTGCTTTTATCATTACCTGTACTAGCAGGA---GCTATTACTATATTATTAACTGATCGAAATTTAAATACCTCTTTTTTTGACCCTAGCGGAGGTGGGGATCCTATCCTTTATCAACATTTATTCTGGTTCTTTGGGCACCCTGAAGTTTATATTTTAATTTTACCAGCTTTTGGTATAGTGTCTCATATTGTTAGCCAAGAGGCAAATAAAAAA---GAAGCATTTGGTACTTTAGGAATAATTTATGCAATGGTAGCTATTGGGGTGTTAGGTTTTGTAGTATGAGCCCACCATATATTTACAGTAGGAATAGATGTAGATACTCGAGCTTATTTTACTTCAGCGACAATAATTATTGCTGTTCCTACGGGTATTAAAATCTTTAGGTGATTAAGA---ACT
-- end --

Download FASTA File
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Conservation

Conservation Status

National NatureServe Conservation Status

United States

Rounded National Status Rank: NNR - Unranked

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NatureServe Conservation Status

Rounded Global Status Rank: GNR - Not Yet Ranked

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Pill bugs are quite common and have no special conservation status.

US Federal List: no special status

CITES: no special status

State of Michigan List: no special status

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Status

Common and widespread (1).
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Threats

Not currently threatened.
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Management

Conservation

Conservation action has not been targeted at this common species.
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Relevance to Humans and Ecosystems

Benefits

Economic Importance for Humans: Negative

Pillbugs may occasionally eat small plants as they germinate, causing some trouble in gardens.

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Economic Importance for Humans: Positive

Pill bugs living in gardens help circulate soil, although they may also eat small plants.

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Wikipedia

Armadillidium vulgare

Armadillidium vulgare, the (common) pill-bug, (common) pill woodlouse, rolly polly or potato bug, is a widespread European species of woodlouse. It is the most extensively investigated terrestrial isopod species.[2]

Description[edit]

Armadillidium vulgare may reach a length of 18 millimetres (0.71 in), and is capable of rolling into a ball when disturbed; this ability, along with its general appearance, gives it the name pill-bug and also creates the potential for confusion with pill millipedes such as Glomeris marginata.[3] It can be distinguished from Armadillidium nasatum and Armadillidium depressum, the only other British species in the genus, by the gap that A. nasatum and A. depressum leave when rolling into a ball; A. vulgare does not leave such a gap.[4]

Armadillidium vulgare beginning to unroll from its defensive posture
A related isopod with its clutch on the belly

Ecology[edit]

Armadillidium vulgare is able to withstand drier conditions than many other woodlouse species, and is restricted to calcareous soils or coastal areas.[3] It feeds chiefly on decaying plant matter, but also grazes lichens and algae from tree bark and walls.[5]

It is able to regulate its temperature through its behaviour, preferring bright sunshine when temperatures are low, but remaining in shadow when temperatures are high; temperatures below −2 °C (28 °F) or above 36 °C (97 °F) are lethal to it.[6] A. vulgare is less susceptible to cold during the night, and may enter a state of dormancy during the winter in order to survive temperatures which would otherwise be lethal.[6]

Distribution[edit]

The native distribution of A. vulgare ranges across Europe, especially in the Mediterranean region .[2] In the United Kingdom, A. vulgare is very common in southern and eastern England, but is more confined to coastal areas in the north.[7] Similarly, in Ireland, A. vulgare is common in the south and east, but rarer in the north and west.[8]

A. vulgare has also been introduced to many locations in North America, where it may reach population densities of up to 10,000 individuals per square metre.[9] It is now one of the most abundant invertebrate species in California coastal grassland habitats.[10] It has also been introduced, to a lesser extent, to sites across the world.[2]

Relationships with humans[edit]

Because of their unusual yet non-threatening appearance, some Armadillidium vulgare are kept as pets in areas throughout the U.S., typically among children. Among adults, they are often seen as unwanted (but essentially harmless) home pests.[11] Keeping a pet pill bug requires a very moist habitat with limited light and lots of decaying plant matter.[12] They can often live up to three years.[11]

See also[edit]

References[edit]

  1. ^ "Armadillidium vulgare". Integrated Taxonomic Information System. 
  2. ^ a b c d Helmut Schmalfuss (2003). "World catalog of terrestrial isopods (Isopoda: Oniscidea) — revised and updated version". Stuttgarter Beiträge zur Naturkunde, Serie A 654: 341 pp. 
  3. ^ a b "Pill woodlouse (Armadillidium vulgare)". ARKive.org. Retrieved February 13, 2009. 
  4. ^ "Woodlouse Wizard: an identification key". Natural History Museum. Retrieved November 7, 2010. 
  5. ^ "Common pill woodlouse — Armadillidium vulgare". Natural England. Retrieved February 13, 2009. 
  6. ^ a b Roberto Refinetti (1984). "Behavioral temperature regulation in the pill bug, Armadillidium vulgare (Isopoda)". Crustaceana 47 (1): 29–43. doi:10.1163/156854084X00298. 
  7. ^ "Armadillidium vulgare". Natural History Museum. Retrieved November 7, 2010. 
  8. ^ "Grid map of records on the Gateway for Common Pill Woodlouse (Armadillidium vulgare)". NBN Gateway. Retrieved February 13, 2009. 
  9. ^ Jan Frouza, Richard Lobinske, Jirí Kalcík & Arshad Ali (2008). "Effects of the exotic crustacean, Armadillidium vulgare (Isopoda), and other macrofauna on organic matter dynamics in soil microcosms in a hardwood forest in central Florida". Florida Entomologist 91 (2): 328–331. doi:10.1653/0015-4040(2008)91[328:EOTECA]2.0.CO;2. 
  10. ^ Oscar H. Paris (1963). "The ecology of Armadillidium vulgare (Isopoda: Oniscoidea) in California grassland: food, enemies, and weather". Ecological Monographs (Ecological Society of America) 33 (1): 1–22. doi:10.2307/1948475. JSTOR 1948475. 
  11. ^ a b Smith-Rogers, Sheryl (October 2009). "Wild Thing: Roly-Poly Pillbugs". TPW Magazine. Retrieved July 10, 2010. 
  12. ^ Stanley A. Schultz & Marguerite J. Schultz (2009). The Tarantula Keeper's Guide: Comprehensive Information on Care, Housing, and Feeding. Barron's Educational Series. pp. 181–183. ISBN 978-0-7641-3885-0. 
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