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biodiversity explorer

the web of life in southern Africa

Order: Diplura

Life > Eukaryotes > Opisthokonta > Metazoa (animals) > Bilateria > Ecdysozoa > Panarthropoda > Tritocerebra > Phylum: Arthopoda > Mandibulata > Atelocerata > Panhexapoda > Hexapoda

Dipluran (family Japygidae), Koeberg Hill near Cape Town. [photo H Robertson, Iziko ©]

Diplurans are eyeless, wingless, elongate primitive-looking insects that are usually found in moist places such as forest leaf litter and can range from about 0.5 cm to over 3 cm in length. There are two main families found in South Africa, the Japygidae and the Campodeidae. The japygids are easily identified by the pincers at the end of the abdomen (modified cerci). They might be confused with earwigs (order: Dermaptera) which also have pincers but japygids are eyeless whereas earwigs have large, prominent compound eyes. In campodeids, the cerci are not pincer-like and consist of many segments.

Diplurans are mainly predatory and those with pincers use them for capturing prey. Like many other primitive wingless insects, diplurans have a form of external fertilisation in which the male deposits a tiny packet of sperm, termed a spermatophore, raised slightly above the ground by a short stalk. A receptive female comes across these sperm packets and fertilizes herself. Eggs are laid in clumps among leaf litter or in little cracks. Female japygids have been found to show a form of parental care by guarding their eggs and young larvae.


  • Condé, B. & Pagés, J. 1991. Diplura. In: Insects of Australia 2nd edition, Volume 1. Melbourne University Press, Melbourne, pp. 269-271.