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Protura is a group of tiny, primarily wingless hexapods (Hexapoda = Insecta + Protura + Diplura + Collembola) that live in soil. Proturans inhabit soils in all terrestrial regions of the earth (with the exception of the Arctic and Antarctic regions).They lack antennae and eyes, but hold their front legs forward and these apparently play an important role in sensing their environment.
Proturans were not described until 1907. Today, around 800 valid proturan species are recognized. Due to their small body size (body length between 0.5–2.5 mm) and soil-dwelling habit, our knowledge of the biology and ecology of proturans remains very limited. Diagnostic taxonomic characters are very inconspicuous and difficult to assess. Identification at the species level strongly depends on subtle chaetotaxic characters, such as the position and length ratio of certain bristles on the foretarsi. Resch et al. (2014) explored the usefulness of "DNA barcoding" for this group. In their study, clusters identified by COI mtDNA sequences and 28S rDNA were consistent with named species (and genera) identified by a proturan specialist using standard morphological characters.
Although the phylogenetic position of Protura is clearly basal to the the ectognaths (Ectognatha = jumping bistletails + silverfish and firebrats + winged insects), the relationship among Protura, Diplura, and Collembola remains unclear (Dell’Ampio et al. 2013).
Pass and Szucsich (2011) reviewed the history of research on Protura.
(Pass and Szucsich 2011 and references therein; Resch et al. 2014 and references therein)