Ten facts about springtails
Here are some facts!
1. Springtails are make up the arthropod Class Collembola, which has over 8000 species worldwide. As springtails are not widely studied however, diversity estimates have predicted many more species, a recent study predicted over 500,000!
3. Springtails are closely related to insects but there are some differences: springtails are wingless and have simple eyes, they can continuously moult through their lifetime, they have a ‘furcula’ which is a springing ‘hinge’ used to escape from predators, and they have a ‘collophore’ or ‘ventral tube’, which is used suck up or release fluid and to attach to surfaces. The name ‘Collembola’ relates to the Collophore as ‘colle’ means glue and ‘embol’ means wedge.
4. Springtails are present in nearly every ecosystem worldwide, from deserts to forests to polar regions. Springtails breathe directly through their skin, which has complex structures to protect them from getting too wet and drowning.
5. Amongst the soil animals, springtails are grouped in the ‘mesofauna’, averaging a couple if millimetres in length they are bigger than ‘microfauna’ (bacteria, fungi etc.) but smaller than ‘macrofauna’ (spiders, beetles etc.). There are however ‘giant’ springtail species in New Zealand which can reach up to 17mm.
6. Most springtails live in soil and play an important ecological role. They munch on dead and decaying organic matter, breaking it up and spreading microorganisms such as bacteria and fungi, aiding decomposition and nutrient cycling.
7. Some springtails do live in other niches, some species from the subfamily Cyphoderinae live in nests of social insects such as ants and termites. Others feed on living plant material and the ‘Lucerne Flea’ Sminthurus viridis is a damaging agricultural pest in the Southern Hemisphere.
9. Courtship behaviours for some springtail species can involve dancing and head banging! Springtail mating then usually involves production of a spermatophore by the male, which is then taken up by the female to fertilise her eggs.
Without a doubt, springtails are wonderful and beautiful animals