The jumping bristletails can be found throughout the world. Their name comes from the ability to jump about 25 cm. at a time. They can survive in various environments ranging from the desert to the arctic. They prefer to live under leaf litter and feed on algae. They live up to about four years and grow up to about 15 mm. long. They have scales, antennae, and three-pronged tails. Their abdomen has eversible vesicles attached, which absorb water. Their exoskeletons are thin and the vesicles prevent dehydration. They undergo simple metamorphosis. They attach themselves to a substrate before molting. They molt their entire live, through both the youth and adult stages. The young take about two years to become sexually mature. After mating, a female will lay about thirty eggs at one time. They can be found at night by shining a flashlight for about fifteen minutes on a spot with leaf litter. The archaeognatha will be drawn to the light.
This order of wingless insects consists of about 350 known species. They hide under bark, in litter, and in rock crevices, and feed on algae, lichens, and vegetable debris.
Oldest fossil considered as Archaeognatha is from the Devonian (390 million years old) from Gaspé, Québec (Labandeira et al., 1988). However, there is little evidence that this fossil is a member of Archaeognatha; it may instead be a member of the stem-group of insects or of stem-Dicondylia.
Recent archaeognathans share two notable derived features:
Compound eyes enlarged, medially contiguous
Specialized musculature of abdomen, which allows them to jump by a rapid downward bending
Archaeognathans also share a number of primitive features. Their mandibles are monocondylic, that is, with only one condyle (the joint or socket-like attachement point to the head capsule), whereas other insects have two condyles ("dicondylic"). This primitive mouthpart feature gives the order its name (Arche - beginning, gnathos - jaw).
Their abdominal segments bear styles, which are small appendages moveable by muscles. They can be seen underneath the abdomen in the following picture:
Barcode of Life Data Systems (BOLD) Stats Specimen Records:497 Specimens with Sequences:369 Specimens with Barcodes:356 Species:20 Species With Barcodes:20 Public Records:341 Public Species:18 Public BINs:63