The Twelve Springtails of Christmas

25th December 2012
The photography of globular springtails is still occupying a fair bit of my spare time. There is apparently, some seasonality with different species and at the local churchyard (my favourite photography location) I'm seeing lots of golden Sminthurinus species.

This "golden" Sminthurinus group includes Sminthurinus aureus (with colour variants), Sminthurinus reticulatus, and others. As I understand it; Sminthurinus aureus is the most common. Sminthurinus reticulatus is thought to be a recent newcomer to the UK and could either be a colour-variant of Sminthurinus aureus or a separate species. It has transverse markings on the dorsal surface of the abdomen and a "Y"-shaped area at the rear. There is a maculata form of Sminthurinus aureus that has a dark lateral abdominal stripe on each side with dark comma-shaped markings above. All are less than 1mm long.

My most recent trip to the churchyard yielded twelve different examples that I managed to photograph (see below):

Here are my thoughts on the twelve. A word of warning - I'm likely to be wrong with some of my assumptions!

  1. A typical-looking Sminthurinus aureus. A feeding instar; the dark dorsal stripe indicating a full gut.
  2. An overall golden specimen with patches of dark lateral pigmentation. Sminthurinus aureus?
  3. Note the prominent darker transverse abdominal bands; typical of Sminthurinus reticulatus.
  4. An overall dark orange specimen with dark lateral markings on the abdomen but no transverse stripes or commas. Sminthurinus aureus.
  5. Sminthurinus reticulatus-type (note "Y" shaped marking at rear of abdomen). Markings very pale. Sminthurinus aureus or pale-form of Sminthurinus reticulatus
  6. Dark specimen with darker areas dorsally and ventrally. Similar to 4.
    Sminthurinus aureus.
  7. Reticulatus-type markings with some dark, lateral pigmentation. Sminthurinus reticulatus.
  8. Overall dark form of Sminthurinus aureus?
  9. Overall pale form with reticulatus markings. Sminthurinus reticulatus.
  10. Typical Sminthurinus aureus-type colouration. Sminthurinus aureus.
  11. Typical reticulatus marking, but greenish. Sminthurinus reticulatus.
  12. Darkish form, with darker lateral pigmentation with a possible comma-shaped area above. Sminthurinus aureus f. maculata?

You can see the difficulty! This is always compounded by viewing images of live specimens rather than prepared ones. I plan to continue photographing these and getting a better understanding of the colour/pattern variations. This is no doubt going to keep me occupied for some time!

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