Publication No. 10435
Experimental Design with Pillbugs
Materials Included In Kit
Filter paper, 30 sheets
Additional Materials Required
Please consult current Safety Data Sheets for additional safety information for chemicals used in student-designed experiments. Remind student to wash hands thoroughly with soap and water before leaving the laboratory.
Please consult your current Flinn Scientific Catalog/Reference Manual for proper disposal of Type IV Biological Materials, and review all federal, state and local regulations that may apply, before proceeding. Never release the isopods into the local ecosystem. They may unknowingly harbor pathogens that could decimate the local population.
Weak acid vs. neutral—pH of 5 to 6.5. More acidic solutions may harm the isopods.
Weak base vs. neutral—pH of 7.5 to 9. More alkaline solutions may harm the isopods.
Warm vs. room temperature—hand warmer, Flinn Catalog No. AP1931.
Cold vs. room temperature—cold pack, Flinn Catalog No. AP6267.
Wavelength of light—colored cellophane, Flinn Catalog Nos. FB0596–FB0598.
Surface texture—sandpaper, Flinn Catalog No. S0165.
Choice of food—potato, carrot, lettuce, walnut, maple, oak, evergreen leaves.
Substrate choice—wood chips, cedar chips, white paper towel, brown paper towel, soil, vermiculite.
Correlation to Next Generation Science Standards (NGSS)†
Science & Engineering PracticesAsking questions and defining problems
Planning and carrying out investigations
Analyzing and interpreting data
Constructing explanations and designing solutions
Disciplinary Core IdeasMS-LS1.D: Information Processing
HS-LS1.A: Structure and Function
Cause and effect
Stability and change
MS-LS1-8. Gather and synthesize information that sensory receptors respond to stimuli by sending messages to the brain for immediate behavior or storage as memories.
Tree of Life Web Project. http://tolweb.org/Isopoda (accessed May 2018).
Wright, J. Department of Biology, Northern State University, Aberdeen, SD. 1997. http://www3.northern.edu/natsource/INVERT1/Pillbu1.htm (accessed May 2018).
Experimental Design with Pillbugs
Isopods are often used in behavior studies. They are clean, odorless and do not transmit human pathogens. They do not bite, sting or pinch. Long term colonies are easy to set up and maintain in a plastic container containing soil, wood or cardboard, slices of potato and an occasional spray from a misting bottle. In their native environment they play an important role by foraging on dead plant material turning the dead leaves into natural fertilizer for new plants. Design a behavior experiment using these sturdy bugs.
The order Isopoda contains about 10,000 species. More than half of the species are aquatic, most of which are marine species. The remaining species live on land. Like other crustaceans, isopods have a brain, compound eyes, a hard exoskeleton, jointed appendages and antennae. The hard exoskeleton is made of overlapping plates instead of a single sheet of armor. The overlapping plates allow the body to bend. In fact, some species of isopod roll into a ball when touched. The species that roll when touched are known by the common names roly poly bugs or pillbugs. Other species move away from the touch and do not roll up even though they look very similar to those that roll. Terrestrial isopods that don’t roll are often called woodlice or sow bugs.
In the first part of the laboratory students will use a hand lens or stereoscope to closely observe the body structures on the isopods. Observations about the movement of the isopods will also be noted. In the second part of the laboratory students will research and plan a behavioral study using the isopods. Next, students will conduct their approved experiments and present their group findings.
Wash hands thoroughly upon completion of laboratory work with living materials. Follow all other safe laboratory procedures.