Slater (woodlouse), Biological name Porcellio scaber, is probably the most common species in New Zealand. They belong to the biological class Crustacea. Their size is about 17mm in length. They have rough exoskeleton and usually in dark grey colour. They have 7 pairs of legs, each pair is attached to the underneath of each thorax segment. Their body consists into three sections: head, thorax and abdomen, these are often fused together so that it is difficult to be sure where each section starts or ends. Most slaters can live for 2-4 years, although most die as juveniles. ➢ Habitat
In New Zealand, slaters are common in spring and autumn as they prefer low light intensity and high humidity and cooler temperature. They are mostly found in cool, damp conditions such as under the bricks, woods and rocks, damp soil litter under the trees.
Soils which are rich in calcium and other macro-decomposers (such as earthworms) generally have high number of slaters. These soils are usually in neutral or alkaline pH. As we known, acid soils have always limited the density of slater population because these soils may be lack sufficient calcium to enables them to build up their calcareous exoskeletons.
In my initial trials of the slaters natural habitat, I observed that slaters are living between pH6 and pH9.
Slaters share their habitat with centipedes, spiders, earthworms, etc. They have predators such as small birds and spiders. Slaters usually feed on dead plant material, fungi, and organic matter in soil so they are omnivores and scavengers. The densities of slaters have usually expressed in numbers per square meter and may be very high. The density shows a sharp increase on release of the young, then followed by a rapid decline as these young meet an early end.
➢ Adaptive features
Slaters have many adaptations that enable them to live in a range of terrestrial habitats and help