Isopod Investigations

May 6th, 2020

If you flip over a log, you are likely to find these little creatures with plates of armor and seven pairs of legs. You might have a name for them such as roly polys, pill bugs, sow bugs, armadillo bugs, or wood lice. These are isopods, of which there are many different species.

Isopods are part of a group of animals known as crustaceans. Many crustaceans live in the sea, and in fact, there are many species of isopods that live in the ocean and in fresh water too.

Join Assistant Director of Education, Pat Heaney, as she searches for land dwelling isopods in her yard.


Do you have a place in your yard where you can look for isopods? Try flipping over logs or rocks. There are many species of isopods, some that roll into little balls when disturbed, others that move quickly to run away from danger. Try to catch an isopod and take a close look.

If you have a magnifying glass you might see some of these features.

  • The exoskeleton, which is divided into 11 segments.
  •  Seven pairs of legs attached to the thorax
  • Paddle like extensions on the back end. These are breathing apparatus, called pleopodal lungs.
  • Look at the head. You will see two antennae and a mouth. Most isopods are scavengers, feeding on dead plant material.

If you find two or more isopods you can have a race. Watch the video. Who will win, Speedy or Chris?


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