Environmental Factors Influencing Certain Behaviors of Isopods

Abstract
Through the observation and manipulation of Isopods and the
environmental factors that affect Isopod behavior, I aim to investigate which
type of environment Isopods prefer, whether Isopods will deliberately seek
out preferred environments, and the factors that influence Isopod behavior
with regard to environment selection.
Approaching the problem at hand, I researched the known behaviors of
Isopods, and found that Isopods prefer dark, damp environments. In order to
confirm this, at least the aspect of Isopods preferring damp environments, I
conducted a controlled experiment, manipulating only the dampness of the
environment, and striving to control all other variables. After obtaining
necessary data, I conducted a chi-squared statistical test to calculate
whether the Isopods actually showed preference towards a specific
environment, or if any sign of preference could be entirely attributed to
random and varying behavior.
Through this study, I concluded with 95% confidence that Isopods do in
fact prefer damp environments. The Isopods showed a statistically significant
inclination towards the damp environment. After referencing various
resources, I theorized that such preference may be due to the presence of
modified gills as the main means by which Isopods breathe. Such a theory
must be confirmed through another controlled experiment.
Introduction
Isopods are small, millipede-like creatures that live in the soil. Despite
their appearance, they are not insects, and instead belong to the Crustacean
subphylum. Isopods are terrestrial organisms, but they have modified gills,
and must live in damp areas in order to respire. Isopods are nocturnal, and
are sensitive to light. Isopods therefore prefer cool, damp, and dark areas,
namely in soil or under leaves and logs. Isopods detect their surroundings
through chemoreception, responding to different smells and stimuli using
their olfactory senses. They also detect stimuli using a pair of antennae.
The main problem that is to be solved here is whether or not
manipulating different environmental factors will influence the Isopod’s
choice of habitat; specifically, if Isopods prefer wet environments to dry
environments. This problem is being investigated in order for me to gain
insight on the preferred environments of the Isopod, and how the Isopod will
react when faced with a choice between a wet and dry environment. The null
hypothesis is that if the Isopods are placed in the controlled choice chamber
with a choice between a wet and dry environment, they will show no

The number of Isopods in each of the 3 chambers was recorded at the very beginning of the experiment. Using the class data. which may disrupt the chemoreceptors of the Isopods.significant preference to either environment. Figure 1: Mean number of Isopods in each chamber as calculated by class data . The lids of the choice chamber were placed onto the choice chamber to prevent the Isopods from escaping. and any variation in the data can be wholly attributed to the random movements of the Isopods. 10 Isopods were obtained from a large population of Isopods that included a mixture of different species. The data obtained was combined with the class data to form a larger sample. standard deviation. the total number. and standard error of the Isopods in each chamber was calculated. then the Isopods will show preference to and congregate in the wet environment because Isopods need the water in the wet environment the breathe through their modified gills. 5 Isopods were placed in the dry chamber. I predict that if the Isopods are placed in the choice chamber. and every minute thereafter until the 10 minute mark. the mean. and vibrations which may influence the Isopod’s behavior. the Isopods were placed in a plastic choice chamber with 2 large dishes separated by a smaller dish in the middle. and 5 in the wet chamber. A chi-squared test was conducted using a significance level of . The filter paper in one of the chambers was dampened uniformly. and a stopwatch was started immediately thereafter. namely Armadillidium vulgare (Pillbug) and Porcellio scaber (Sowbug). The critical value was obtained through a chi-squared table using a degree of freedom of 2. the majority of the Isopods had moved to the wet chamber. Each of the larger circular dishes was lined with white filter paper. I also used my fingers to handle the Isopods instead of gloves or tweezers. sound. Important drawbacks to note in the initiation of the experiment include: I failed control variables including light. Results At the end of 10 minutes. The resulting chi-squared value from the chi-squared test was compared with the critical value to see whether I should reject or fail to reject the null hypothesis.05. Methods and Materials In the experiment.

11 Dry chamber 1. it is apparent that much more Isopods ended up in the wet chamber than in the dry chamber.44 Dry -3 Type of Chamber Figure 2: Mean number of Isopods in each chamber with error bars Looking at the data.44 Mean number of Isopods in each Chamber 11 9 7 Mean Number of Isopods 5 3 8.Mean number of Isopods Wet Chamber 8.11 Middle 1. Figure 3: Chi-square test with respect to the numbers of Isopods Chi-square value Degrees of P-value Critical value . A chi-squared test will be conducted to see if this difference is significant.44 Middle Chamber .44 1 -1 Wet 0.

Another drawback is the number of species used. smell. the goal was met in terms of observing the responses of the Isopods to the wet and dry environments. then one can assume that water might be an essential factor to isopod breathing and survival. These variables may contribute to unexpected responses by the Isopods. which is much larger than the critical value of 5. These results serve to strengthen the assumption that Isopods need water to breathe through their modified gills. I reject the null hypothesis with 95% confidence and conclude that the Isopods do indeed show a preference towards the wet environment. If a significant number die in the dry environment. sound. isolated environment much like the natural environment the isopods are found in. which may play a factor in skewing the results.99 at a . 10 . This experiment was relatively hastily performed. and any variables can be controlled for to the maximum extent. In this experiment. and may cause the results to be skewed. Manipulating environmental factors does indeed draw a response from the Isopods. which is much larger that the critical value at a 95% confidence level. This explanation can be tested by isolating Isopods in only wet or dry environments.43 Freedom 2 . To improve this. At least two species of Isopods were used.05 significance level with 2 degrees of freedom. at least when manipulating the wetness of the environment.99 The Chi-square value is 43. cool. Discussion Based on the calculated chi-square value of 43. as members of the same species might be more attracted to each other. and had several drawbacks. This can be fixed by simply making sure that the Isopods used are all of the same species.05 5. A new question that arises from this experiment is what is the degree to which females of the same species can attract males? In other words. and observing the survival rate of the Isopods. These results fit quite nicely with my original prediction. the experiment could be conducted in a dark. how significantly do females attract males so as to account for a difference in the data in the wet and dry environment experiment? Such a question could be investigated by putting 10 males in a wet and dry choice chamber. One such drawback is the failure to control for important variables such as light. and vibrations.

.). (Ed. (n. T. References Department of Invertebrate Zoology. 2015. Retrieved October 5. 2015.females in a different set of wet and dry choice chambers.d. Isopods. (2004). 2015. and 5 males and 5 females in yet another set of wet and dry choice chambers. 2015. Resource Cards. Retrieved October 5. (n.).).d. Retrieved October 5.). R.d. Retrieved October 5. Painter. King. Isopod. (n.

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