With their shiny, scaly bodies, bristletails closely resemble silverfish (order Thysanura). Bristletails, however, have tube-shaped bodies, while those of silverfish are flattened. The eyes of bristletails are quite large and meet over the top of the head, but those of silverfish are much smaller and are widely separated. And each jaw of a bristletail has only one point of attachment to the head, while those of silverfish and all other insects connect to the head at two points.
Bristletails jump by bending their bodies and then suddenly releasing the tip of the abdomen so that it hits the ground. They are excellent climbers, using their paired abdominal structures to grip vertical surfaces as they climb like inch-worms.
Males and females engage in lots of touching with their antennae during courtship. Depending on the species, the males use a variety of methods to transfer their sperm to the female. In some species the male lays a silk thread on the ground. He deposits sperm on the web, which is later collected by the female. The males of other species attach a sperm packet to the ground and then guide a female over it. Still other species mate, with the male depositing sperm directly into the female's body.
Females lay their eggs in protected places, usually gluing them to the ground. Young bristletails molt six to eight times before reaching adulthood. Adults continue to molt and grow for the rest of their lives and are able to replace lost limbs and other structures as they molt. Bristletails may live up to three years and molt as many as sixty times.
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