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see silverfishsilverfish,
common name for primitive, wingless insects of the family Lepismatidae. The silverfish, which has two long antennae and three long tail bristles, is named for its covering of tiny, silvery scales. It develops directly in six or more molts into an adult about 1-2 in.
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The Firebrat has all the density of a Russian novel, and there is more than a hint of Chekhov in the story of the narrator's ancestral home, Skylands (great name!), which is being razed for development.
But in the novel's alternate universe, small things are unexpectedly magnified, like the "firebrats"--small, primitive insects that Elliot raises and studies through a microscope--of the book's title.