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Scientific classification
Kingdom: Animalia
Phylum: Arthropoda
Subphylum: Hexapoda
Class: Insecta
Subclass: Dicondylia
Order: Zygentoma
Börner, 1904

Bristletails (Order Zygentoma) are a small, primitive type of insect, the order of which includes the household pest, silverfish. Their mouth parts are used for chewing, and they do not sting. True bristletails should not be confused with jumping bristletails, which are in a different order.

A species of bristletail found in California is an example of a living fossil. It is scaleless and nearly identical to fossil specimens.


Bristletails are elongate wingless insects, named for the 3 tail-like appendages at the end of their abdomens. Their bodies are flat and spindle-shaped with overlapping scales. They have long, multi-segmented antennae, and some abdominal segments have styli (finger-like protrusions.) Tarsi have 3-4 segments.

Life Cycle

Bristletails undergo simple metamorphosis. Nymphs of this order are generally very similar to the adult.


Bristletails have either small compound eyes and live under rocks, or have larger eyes and are found in leaf litter, debris, or under bark, where there is more light. Bristletails found in houses eat flour, paste, cloth, and paper.


This order was formerly called Thysanura, which comes from Latin, meaning "tassle tail." Formerly, Thysanura included individuals of the order Diplura. Diplurans are now no longer considered insects.

Number of species

There are 40 species found in North America, and 250 worldwide.


There are three families in this order.