Overview

Brief Summary

Biology

Woodlice feed on dead organic matter, which they detect by means of taste and smell (2). The common woodlouse is gregarious, and typically spends the day concealed beneath stones, logs and other objects. When threatened, this species defends itself by clamping down onto the surface; the feet can grip the substrate very tightly, and this woodlouse is able to cling on tenaciously (2). Mating tends to take place at night, and is very rarely observed for this reason. When a male finds a receptive female, he climbs onto her back and drums her with his front legs whilst 'licking' her head with his mouthparts. He moves to one side of the female, bending his body beneath hers, and transfers sperm to one of the female's genital openings. He then moves to the other side and transfers sperm to the remaining genital opening (2). During the breeding season, reproductive females develop a 'brood pouch', which consists of overlapping leaf-like structures known as 'oostegites', which 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. They 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

The common woodlouse is one of the commonest and widely spread of the British woodlice (1). 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 common woodlouse is typically grey with irregular light patches, but yellow and orange forms may occur near to the sea (2). The surface of the body is dotted with raised blotches; adults usually have a glossy body, but in contrast juveniles often have a rough body texture (2). There are currently two recognised subspecies of the common woodlouse, Oniscus asellus asellus and O. asellus occidentalis, which differ in the details of their appearance and ecology (3).
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Distribution

Range

Ubiquitous throughout Britain, the common woodlouse (subspecies Oniscus asellus asellus) is one of the most widespread and common terrestrial arthropods in western Europe (3). The subspecies O. asellus occidentalis is found mainly in the south-west of Britain and western France (3).
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Ecology

Habitat

Depth range based on 1 specimen in 1 taxon.

Environmental ranges
  Depth range (m): 60 - 60
 
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Occurs in moist places in many habitats, and is frequently found under bark and amongst leaf litter in gardens and woodlands (1). This species avoids dry habitats, and unlike many woodlice, it can tolerate acid soils (2).
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Molecular Biology and Genetics

Molecular Biology

Statistics of barcoding coverage: Oniscus asellus

Barcode of Life Data Systems (BOLDS) Stats
Public Records: 0
Specimens with Barcodes: 1
Species With Barcodes: 1
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Conservation

Conservation Status

Status

Common and widespread throughout Britain (2).
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Threats

Not threatened at present.
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Management

Conservation

No conservation action has been targeted at this species.
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Wikipedia

Oniscus asellus

Oniscus asellus, the common woodlouse, is one of the largest and most common species of woodlouse in the British Isles and Western and Northern Europe, growing to lengths of 16 mm and widths of 6 mm.

Distribution[edit]

The common woodlouse is the most widespread species of woodlouse in the British Isles, both geographically and ecologically.[2] It is not known from the Mediterranean Basin, but is widespread in Northern and Western Europe, as far east as Ukraine, as well as in the Azores and Madeira; it has also been widely introduced in the Americas.[1]

Ecology[edit]

The Common Woodlouse occurs in a wide range of habitats, including some with little available calcium. It is chiefly found under stones, and on rotting wood.[2] It is the only woodlouse regularly found on heather moors and blanket bogs, where it lives around items such as rotting fenceposts.[2]

Description[edit]

The common woodlouse is one of the largest native woodlice in Britain, at up to 16 mm (0.63 in) long.[3] It is relatively flat, and is a shiny brown/grey in colour,[2] although juveniles are rougher.[3]

Pale patches are often visible on the back of Oniscus asellus; these are areas that store calcium, which is then used to reinforce the exoskeleton after a moult.[3] Moulting occurs in two halves, with the rear half moulting before the front half. The exuvia is often consumed by the animal after moulting.[3]

See also[edit]

References[edit]

  1. ^ a b Helmut Schmalfuss (2003). "World catalog of terrestrial isopods (Isopoda: Oniscidea) – revised and updated version". Stuttgarter Beiträge zur Naturkunde, Serie A 654: 341 pp. 
  2. ^ a b c d Paul T. Harding & Stephen L. Sutton (1985). Woodlice in Britain and Ireland: distribution and habitat (PDF). Abbots Ripton, Huntingdon, Institute of Terrestrial Ecology. p. 151. ISBN 0-904282-85-6.  accessed through the NERC Open Access Research Archive (NORA)
  3. ^ a b c d "Common woodlouse (Oniscus asellus)". ARKive.org. Retrieved February 22, 2009. 
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