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.
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.