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Kids' Inquiry of Diverse Species


What do they look like?

  • Sexual Dimorphism
  • sexes alike
  • Range length
    7.0 to 19.0 mm
    0.28 to 0.75 in

Where do they live?

There are around 370 species from four different families in the order Thysanura. Their distribution is worldwide.

What kind of habitat do they need?

Silverfish live under bark, leaf litter, in caves and other underground dwellings, including mammal burrows. Some species are found in buildings associated with humans. Silverfish can exist under extreme environments. Some tolerate wet, cool regions, and others tolerate the low humidity and high temperatures of arid regions.

How do they grow?

Molting occurs throughout the life of the insect. It takes up to two years for a silverfish to complete its development from juvenile to adult.

How long do they live?

Silverfish can live up to four years.

  • Range lifespan
    Status: wild
    4.0 (high) years

How do they behave?

Despite being wingless, silverfish are rapid runners.

What eats them and how do they avoid being eaten?

What roles do they have in the ecosystem?

Commensal or parasitic species (or larger taxonomic groups) that use this species as a host
  • ants
  • termites

Do they cause problems?

  • Ways that these animals might be a problem for humans
  • household pest

How do they interact with us?

Silverfish that are outdoor species are useful decomposers of organic materials.

Some more information...

Collecting: Silverfish may be collected from buildings by placing strips of paper at the edge of a small jar and making a ramp to the floor. Place a bit of dried fruit, raisin, oatmeal or cracker in the jar and check it every day. If silverfish are around, you'll trap them in the jar. Place the trap in an attic, storage room, or cellar for best results. They can also be collected from leaf litter using a Berlese funnel and jar. Outdoors, Silverfish are also found under bark and stones and in fungi. A moist brush will pick them up. Preserve silverfish in 75% ethanol.



Living in Australia, New Zealand, Tasmania, New Guinea and associated islands.

World Map


living in sub-Saharan Africa (south of 30 degrees north) and Madagascar.

World Map


living in the Nearctic biogeographic province, the northern part of the New World. This includes Greenland, the Canadian Arctic islands, and all of the North American as far south as the highlands of central Mexico.

World Map


living in the southern part of the New World. In other words, Central and South America.

World Map


living in the northern part of the Old World. In otherwords, Europe and Asia and northern Africa.

World Map

bilateral symmetry

having body symmetry such that the animal can be divided in one plane into two mirror-image halves. Animals with bilateral symmetry have dorsal and ventral sides, as well as anterior and posterior ends.


helps break down and decompose dead plants and/or animals


a wetland area rich in accumulated plant material and with acidic soils surrounding a body of open water. Bogs have a flora dominated by sedges, heaths, and sphagnum.


mid-altitude coastal areas with mild, rainy winters and long, dry summers. Dominant plant types are dense, evergreen shrubs.

desert or dunes

in deserts low (less than 30 cm per year) and unpredictable rainfall results in landscapes dominated by plants and animals adapted to aridity. Vegetation is typically sparse, though spectacular blooms may occur following rain. Deserts can be cold or warm and daily temperates typically fluctuate. In dune areas vegetation is also sparse and conditions are dry. This is because sand does not hold water well so little is available to plants. In dunes near seas and oceans this is compounded by the influence of salt in the air and soil. Salt limits the ability of plants to take up water through their roots.


forest biomes are dominated by trees, otherwise forest biomes can vary widely in amount of precipitation and seasonality.


marshes are wetland areas often dominated by grasses and reeds.


A large change in the shape or structure of an animal that happens as the animal grows. In insects, "incomplete metamorphosis" is when young animals are similar to adults and change gradually into the adult form, and "complete metamorphosis" is when there is a profound change between larval and adult forms. Butterflies have complete metamorphosis, grasshoppers have incomplete metamorphosis.


having the capacity to move from one place to another.

native range

the area in which the animal is naturally found, the region in which it is endemic.


found in the oriental region of the world. In other words, India and southeast Asia.

World Map


development takes place in an unfertilized egg


rainforests, both temperate and tropical, are dominated by trees often forming a closed canopy with little light reaching the ground. Climbing plants are also abundant. There is plenty of moisture and rain, but may be somewhat seasonal.

scrub forest

scrub forests develop in areas that experience dry seasons.


a wetland area that may be permanently or intermittently covered in water, often dominated by woody vegetation.


that region of the Earth between 23.5 degrees North and 60 degrees North (between the Tropic of Cancer and the Arctic Circle) and between 23.5 degrees South and 60 degrees South (between the Tropic of Capricorn and the Antarctic Circle).


Living on the ground.


the region of the earth that surrounds the equator, from 23.5 degrees north to 23.5 degrees south.

University of Michigan Museum of ZoologyNational Science Foundation

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BioKIDS is sponsored in part by the Interagency Education Research Initiative. It is a partnership of the University of Michigan School of Education, University of Michigan Museum of Zoology, and the Detroit Public Schools. This material is based upon work supported by the National Science Foundation under Grant DRL-0628151.
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