Another Selection of Springtails

16th November 2012
I've been enjoying myself hunting for springtails again this week. One of the benefits of springtail photography is that it can be undertaken without travelling any further than my garden and the nearby churchyard! They are generally abundant in leaf-litter at the moment.

So what are springtails? Well, they are all grouped together into the Collembola and most simply are small, wingless hexapods (six-legged), with antennae and entognathous mouthparts (the mouthparts are withdrawn into a pouch and only extended when eating). Most also have a forked abdominal appendage (the furca), that is held folded underneath and which when released, propels the springtail into the air (hence the name). When I say small, many are only a few millimetres long, some considerably smaller. Without getting too deeply into the complex taxonomy of these creatures; some are cylindrical and some more rounded (the globular springtails). It's the globular varieties that I have been mostly seeking.

If I see cylindrical varieties, I do try to photograph them though. Some are very active but the one top left, remained sufficiently still for me to get five images for combining using the Zerene Stacker software. I think this may be one of the Isotomurus species. The next image is a small (<2mm) globular springtail. I think this might be Dicyrtomina minuta which characteristically has a yellow body with a pigmented area to the rear of the abdomen. The name is confusing as D. minuta can be just as large as related species. These are not particularly common in my garden.

The next image (third down), is the most common in my garden (and the churchyard) at the moment. I have no real certainly about identification, but this looks like Dicryrtomina saundersi. D. saundersi has this mottled colouration which gets darker as the springtail moults and matures. Not visible in this image, but the colouration at the rear of the abdomen resembles a multi-barred cross. Many fallen leaves that are in contact with soil have at least one of these on the underside. I've seen up to a dozen on some leaves. This one has paused to eat (a spot of fungus?) on the leaf, extending its facial area as it does so.

The final springtail is one that I photographed today. It's the first time that I've photographed this species. Just going on the purplish colouration (which is always dangerous!), this looks rather like Dicyrtoma fusca. I'm hoping that some more experienced enthusiasts will read this blog post and give me some more accurate suggestions.

There are hundreds of different species of springtails in the UK; dozens of the globular variety (though some are very uncommon). They are also not particularly well undertood or studied, so represent an interesting but challenging area of interest. I shall keep looking and photographing, and will blog about any new "finds", as and when I encounter them.

[Click on images for a larger version]

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