Tuesday, April 26, 2011

(Another) Invasion!

On the 14th of this month, when I came into my lab, I found this little critter crawling around on the shelf next to all of our chemicals that we use for research. I'd never seen one before. So I did what any rational human being would: I caught it in a plastic test tube and stuck it in the freezer. With the help of the key at bugguide.net [1], I was able to determine that it is a firebrat (Thermobia domestica), a type of silverfish. They are called firebrats because they are often found in warm places, like under heaters and ovens.[2]

As you can see, the three tails on this guy (on the right side) have been broken off.[3] This may have happened before I found him, while I was trying to catch him, or while he was frantically trying to escape from the ever-colder test tube in the last moments of his life. This defect makes him less than ideal as a museum specimen, so I'll be contributing his remains to DNA sequence analysis.[4]


[1] See http://bugguide.net/node/view/3/bgpage.

[2] See http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Firebrat.

[3] His antennae, on the left side of the photograph, are tucked back under him, but look to be intact.

[4] For equally interesting insects which met the same fate, see my post Cleaning House.

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