A.vulgare's Habitat: A Little Bit of Everywhere

     Map of A.vulgare geographical locations.    

       Armadillidium vulgare is classified under the order Isopoda, which are the only crustaceans to have successfully transitioned from aquatic to terrestrial environments (Miller and Cameron 1983).  A.vulgare originates from the moist Mediterranean, but has spread throughout the world via human activity (Schmalfuss 2003). Most commonly, it is found in the grasslands and forests of North America and Europe, where conditions are favorable due to seasons, which cause a cycle of decomposition as many plants grow and die. However, they can be found virtually worldwide, as demonstrated by the map above. They have a maximum lifespan of approximately four years, but on average most live for only two (Paris and Pitelka 1962). However, because A.vulgare is so widespread, it is suggested that many life history modifications came as a result of local environments (Miller and Cameron 1983). Therefore, habitat condition information varies depending upon which geographical location the organism resides in. Armadillidium vulgare on a leaf. Photo taken by Carlos M. Mancilla C. Used with permission.
      A. vulgare
is primarily a decomposer and can be found commonly under rocks, logs, in soil, and in other damp, dark areas.  The organism is nocturnal, remaining in its dark habitat until the temperature drops and the sun sets. This is mainly due to its pleopodal (gill-like) lungs unique to Crustaceans that require water in order to breathe, and the lack of a cuticle layer to keep internal water from escaping (Hadley 1994; Csoka et al.2013).  A. vulgare must therefore avoid warm temperatures and sunlight because they would risk losing water that is crucial to survival. See Form and Function for more information on A. vulgare's unique body plan. 

    During winter and early spring, A. vulgare lives mainly in the top layers of soil that are moist from snow and rainfall.  In opposition, during warmer months from spring to fall, the organism moves vertically in the soil much more frequently to avoid the hot, dry weather on the surface (Paris and Pitelka 1962).  Most of the time spent on the surface is in search of food, usually dead plant matter, decaying organisms or fecal matter, which A. vulgare will consume and decompose, thus aiding in nutrient cycling.  One great beneficial interaction that decomposers provide for humans is soil circulation, which leads to better crop growth and therefore, greater amounts and better quality of food (for more information, see Interactions page).

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