springtails families aidgap

Springtail families AIDGAP

This AIDGAP guide in the fold-out guide style is an illustrated key to the families of Collembola in Britain.

Although not as detailed as Hopkin (2007), the authors hope that this guide will encourage more recording of these tiny but vital animals. In most terrestrial ecosystems Collembola occur at densities of between 10,000 and 100,000 per square metre. They are certainly among the most abundant arthropods on earth, if perhaps not the most obvious.

Many naturalists regard the Collembola as a difficult group. It is certainly true that putting a name to a springtail is harder than naming a butterfly. Nevertheless, for those with a little patience, identification of most Collembola is reasonably straightforward. Their study is not restricted to the normal entomological season, and at least some adult specimens can be found in every month of the year.

The most obvious feature of Collembola is the jumping organ, or furca. It can propel some species many times their own body length in a fraction of a second. The spring evolved as an escape mechanism to avoid predators. Species of Collembola confined to the soil have a reduced furca to ease their movement between soil particles and tightly packed leaf litter. Some have lost the jumping organ altogether, and are therefore effectively ‘spring-less springtails’.