One of our recent projects has taken us to New York City to sample ground dwelling
arthropods in parks and street medians. As we began to sort our samples, we came across some of the non-insect hexapod orders. We’ve identified all three of the non-insect hexapod orders in our samples. Our last two posts have covered Collembola and Diplura. The last of the three non-insect hexapod orders is Protura.
Proturans are lovingly referred to as “coneheads” since their heads are somewhat cone shaped, with their mouthparts emerging from the tip of the cone. They are small (<2mm) elongate and pale colored. They lack antennae and eyes. Like some other arthropods that lack antennae (Uropygi and Amblypygi), their first pair of legs are modified into antenna-like sensory structures. As proturans move around searching for food, their forelegs are held up in front of them feeling out their environment.
Proturans have anamorphic development, which means segments are added to the abdomen with each molt. When they hatch the abdomen has 9 segments which increases to 12 segments when they reach adulthood.
Like collembolans and diplurans, Protura are found in leaf litter, soil and moss. Not much is known about their ecology or biology, but they seem to be scavengers on decaying plants, fungus and dead arthropods.