Australian Biological Resources Study

Australian Faunal Directory


Regional Maps


Compiler and date details

G.B. Smith, Bayer Australia Ltd, Sydney, New South Wales, Australia


The family Nicoletiidae is divided into two distinct subfamilies, Atelurinae and Nicoletiinae. The Atelurinae are exclusively inquilines in the nests of ants or termites and display a wide variety of adaptions to this way of life. The Nicoletiinae are generally soil-dwelling and have been collected in leaf litter, under logs and stones, in soil and in caves. All nicoletiids are eyeless and lack ocelli. Most species lack hypodermal pigment but many are covered with fine golden scales. Bristle combs and brushes are lacking. Styli and exsertile vesicles are common on the urosternites.

Escherich (1905) reviewed the Nicoletiidae in his monograph on the Thysanura. Paclt (1963) reviewed the world literature but many of his taxonomic proposals on the basis of the literature alone cannot be supported (Wygodzinsky 1963). Almost 200 species in 59 genera are described; 116 species in 41 genera in the subfamily Atelurinae and 78 species in 18 genera in the Nicoletiinae. Mendes (1988) gives these two subfamilies full family status and proposes five subfamilies within the family Nicoletiidae.

The Atelurinae are small (3–7 mm), teardrop in shape, golden insects which are generally extremely agile and can move very rapidly. Janet (1897) observed the behaviour of Atelura formicaria v. Hayden with the ant host Lasius mixtus. These silverfish steal food being passed from one ant to another and it appears that their survival in the nest depends mostly on their speed and agility. The scales, reduced setation and reduced caudal appendages are probably adaptations to avoid capture by the ants. In contrast, Silvestri (1903) reports that some atelurine species which live with termites appear to be completely ignored by their hosts, to the extent that the silverfish have been observed walking over the queen without being attacked by the other termites. All the described genera of Australian Atelurinae are relatively generalised in form, unlike some of the highly specialised genera from Africa and Asia. One quite modified and undescribed species, however, is known from a termite nest in Western Australia. Of the four genera recorded from Australia, Allatelura and Australiatelura are endemic.

Smith (1998) reviewed the Australian Nicoletiinae, which consist of three genera endemic to Australia and the south-western Pacific. All species are elongate (5–11 mm) and lack pigment and scales. Twelve Australian species are described; four of these have been collected in caves and the remainder in soil, leaf litter or under logs and stones.


History of changes

Note that this list may be incomplete for dates prior to September 2013.
Published As part of group Action Date Action Type Compiler(s)
04-Feb-2015 NICOLETIIDAE 03-Feb-2015 REVIEWED Dr Federica Turco
07-Aug-2012 07-Aug-2012 MOVED
12-Feb-2010 (import)