Woodlouse

Woodlouse

Most people who have ever seen a woodlouse would agree that the creatures seem rather odd. This discourse is designed to highlight some odd yet very interesting facts about a woodlouse. Most people will be surprised to find out that a woodlouse is not an insect but a crustacean. The bodies of woodlice consist of 14 parts, which makes the creatures so flexible that they can curl their bodies to form a ball in order to be protected from danger.

Woodlice Oddities

Firstly, a woodlouse will never produce urine. Rather than urinating, a woodlouse will excrete nitrogenous waste from its body as ammonia gas. This is surprising because most creatures find ammonia very toxic such that they cannot excrete it in that form. In most creatures ammonia is usually converted into uric acid or urea for excretion. Woodlice are highly resistant to ammonia and they can excrete it directly through their exoskeletons in the form of a gas. This implies that they do not need to spend energy converting ammonia to uric acid or urea before excretion. Another odd fact about a woodlouse is that it has blue blood just like majority of other crustaceans. The blood of woodlice contains a compound known as haemocyanin which carries oxygen just like hemoglobin carries oxygen in mammals. Instead of containing iron atoms like in the case of hemoglobin, haemocyanin contains copper atoms. This makes their blood pale blue whenever the blood contains oxygen, and colorless when it does not contain oxygen. Another oddity about a woodlouse is that like a good number of other animals, a woodlouse also eats its faeces. This is especially beneficial to woodlice because eating their faeces enables them to reabsorb copper minerals that get lost through excretion. Bacteria on the waste play a major role in changing the copper into a form that can be readily absorbed by the woodlice. The act of eating faeces is known as coprophagy. Another oddity about a woodlouse is that besides drinking with its mouth parts, it can use its uropods. In addition, woodlice can also absorb moisture or water vapor through the exoskeleton surface in areas where the humidity levels are high.

picture credits:
© Arenamontanus „Giving me a trilobite stare“
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