Nature All Around Us, even in the loo

Never Home Alone, even in the bathtub

Nature IS all around us, even while reading a book called “Nature All Around Us.”

This little terrestrial isopod was found stranded in our bath today. At first I thought it was the usual woodlouse or pillbug, but look at those angled antennae and that spiky, forked “tail!!”

This latter feature led to a ‘Today, I Learned’ fact I hope to remember: the tail is really a uropod, which is a spearlike, posterior appendage believed to help with locomotion. (Same word for the end flange on a lobster tail.)

But, despite his uropod, our visitor could not locomote his way free, so I re-homed him. A rotting log under the sugar maple seemed a likely spot.

Identification: I’ve been told this may be a species from the genus Porcellionides, which is a member of the woodlice and pillbugs suborder Oniscidea, and which is all news to me.

I shall call him Frank.

new home

To me, more important than pinpointing genus, species, or gender of this tiny crustacean is knowing its function.
What is its job?
What was it trying to do in my tub?
All pillbugs are decomposers, so it must have been looking for something to . . . decompose. It wants rotting things. Most likely, it crawled from the dirt basement straight up through the not insignificant crack alongside the cast-iron tub. It must have gone in search of greener pastures. Or in search of  the steady drip of a tub handle. All crustaceans need water.

By the way, Nature is All Around is a good (and entertaining) book about the ecology of urban areas. The target audience is us: average Jo-Shmoes who are curious about the inside, backyard, sidewalk and city creatures and systems we live among. Highly recommended.

Oh, and also, I uploaded the isopod pic to the iNaturalist project called “Never Home Alone: the Wildlife of Homes.” If you didn’t catch the NPR interview with the project creator and author of a book by the same title, do have a listen. You’ll never feel lonely again.


4 thoughts on “Nature All Around Us, even in the loo

  1. Delightfully educative, as ever. One wonders: What happens to British uropods after Brexit?

    Perhaps you, your husband, and-or one or both of your children could write a story whose protagonist is named P. G. Woodlouse.

  2. Enjoyed this, Joanna! Dunn was at our local bookstore in November and I couldn’t attend. I hate I missed him, but I did hear this interview. I’m still trying to figure iNaturalist out. I upload my observations, someone verifies it, but there must be more to it? Thanks for the book recommendation. You are always reading some good ones.

    1. Hi, Cheryl. Yes, each of our observations can get verified or re-directed, and you can verify and redirect IDs for others. I learn so much. The program makes me do my own ID work before I upload, because I hate just throwing a pic online with a “Something” tag (although I have to, at times). When I started, it felt a bit . . . useless other than just creating a sort of Life List for my own places (my home, my favorite parks, etc.), but then I realized my data was being collected by “real” projects. Just last week I noticed my neighborhood observations were automatically roped in to a project to document the diversity (or lack thereof) for our local watershed. So now I feel the citizen scientist vibe, and am pleased to be a contributor. (But I do love the Life List function too. I refer back to my own observations to see when whatsit was blooming last year, or when that stinkhorn was in the yard, etc.) .
      I’ll look for you and follow . . .

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