What do YOU call these tiny land crustaceans?

I have far too much respect for spiders than to call them bugs!



1 Like

Because there seems to be this trend to imagine that words that actually describe the organisms in question must be meaningless – things like fish or prokaryote – because all that matters in biology is where things show up on phylogenetic trees. I trust you don’t believe that , considering you said that whales are not actually lobe-finned fish, despite being part of the clade Sarcopterygii.

No, I really do believe that phylogeny is the whole point of naming groups of organisms (even if I, like all humans, often use non-phylogenetic names in causal talk). The reason is because if you know an organism is a member of a particular phylogenetic group, you can make predictions about it that you would never think of making if you didn’t know otherwise. In this way, these groupings are far more descriptive than names that were created to be descriptive.

That’s unfair. Many of them are actually Trotskyists!


So antennae were mentioned above. Arachnids have none; centipedes, millipedes, insects, and other hexapods with rare exceptions have two; crustaceans with rare exceptions have four. For a while then people thought insects probably belonged with the centipedes and millipedes, which also have other similarities like having only unbranched appendages.

It turns out though that was misleading – as said insects are actually part of the crustacean lineage, closer to types like remipedes and further from types like ostracods. The loss of branched appendages including the second antennae is purely convergence and very probably in some way associated with a terrestrial lifestyle. And guess what, despite being clearly crustaceans, it turns out isopods have that same change too. They’re a different lineage, but still occupy a terrestrial niche, home to what a lot of us would call “bugs”.

Phylogeny is tremendously important and definitely allows you to predict a great deal about organisms, and there is good reason to stick to it in taxonomy. But if you think other categories…whether things are herbivores or carnivores or detrivores, mobile or sessile, trees or herbs, terrestrial or aquatic…don’t ever have predictive value too, to the point where you’d rather not even use them as terms, you have blinders on to a huge part of evolutionary biology. Because that’s the whole point: organisms may have developed from this ancestor or that one, but they also change according to their niche.

Brian Howard was right in saying that fish doesn’t mean much to a cladist, but it means a lot to an ecologist. Understanding living things as more than just points on a cladogram takes both.


I read through the replies and did not see what we called them. The children on my street called them “cannonballs”. I heard “rollie-pollies” also. I knew of “wood-lice” from books.

1 Like

cheers, but that went over my head. Did Trotsky have an aversion to military tanks?

Roly-Polys or Wood Louse. We also infrequently called them “God’s little piggies”. Not to be confused with God’s little cows (bóín Dé) which are of course, Ladybugs.


Thanks! I knew they were closely related, but the “amphi” makes sense with both swimming and walking appendages.


That actually made it make sense. If that’s not the reason, it might as well be.

1 Like

That is a perfect example of why I’ve lived on the hellsite that is tumblr since 2011.


I also grew up in Michigan, and heard pillbug and sowbug; only children used roly-poly.

We saw these crittas in Jamaica

clinging to rocks on the shore at the place we stayed. They were stuck fast, and V low profile, almost flat, nothing like in that last image. We pointed them out to our friend Divemaster Dave (AKA Barefoot), who knows everything about the sea and birds. He said, “Sea beef!” and told us yet another great story. He said he’d had a job on the South Coast of The Island, and a Cuban coworker saw a buncha sea beef and whooped for joy. He pulled out a big knife, and began prising them off their perches, eating them immediately, completely raw. Dave was disgusted, but the Cuban gent grinned from ear to ear as he ate his fill of sea beef.

We talked with Dave about dem lickle pillbugs dem back home and pon De Island, an’ him laff an’ laff. We all thought they were related.*

Brief tangent:
In Jamaica, fireflies/lightning bugs are called winkies, and less often, peenie wallies! It’s lotsa fun to shout, “Peenie wallies!” when one sees a lot of them in the company of Jamaicans. They laugh as much when non-natives correctly use patois as Russians do when a non-native speaks Russian w/o an accent.

*Edited to correct an error pointed out by kjh


that did not inform our use of the term!


Well, I was a child when I saw them the most.

1 Like

Same. :slight_smile:

Saw one in the house a coupla weeks ago, near where a window leaks during heavy rain, and I told my BF I hadn’t the (lack of) heart to kill it. He was best pleased.


Yep, slaters.


They are chitons, molluscs, not even related to isopods.

1 Like

An alternate Cheese Bob and national treasure


lady bug insect GIF