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Bristletails can be three-tailed (Archeognatha and Zygentoma) or two-tailed (Diplura), however, whilst they share a common english name, there are a number of significant differences between the groups.

Archeaognatha and Zygentoma

Primitive insects with external mouthparts, three tails, six true legs and usually a number of false leg like structures. They are often metallic in appearance

The Archeognatha are slightly humped, cylindrical insects, with a glistening metallic appearance due to the irridescant scales that cover much of their bodies. They typically feed on vegetation, such as algae and have the ability to "spring" away from predators. They have large compound eyes, and usually some smaller ocelli present. They are known to have elaborate courtship displays.

The Zygentoma are slightly flattened insects, typically covered with metallic scales and with smaller compound eyes without ocelli. They cannot jump, but move quickly with a rippling motion.

Diplura

Very primitive invertebrates, usually classified as insects, but treated by some authors as another order of invertebrates in their own right. Internal mouthparts, small size and two pronged tails.