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Springtails (class Collembola, subphylum Hexapoda, kingdom Animalia, domain Eukaryota)

Springtails used to be grouped with two other former orders in the class Entognatha, but are now in a class by themselves.

Springtails are not considered to be insects partly because of their forked appendage called the "furcula," kept under the abdomen and used to propel the springtail distances many times greater than its length.  Also unlike insects, they do not have a clearly distinguishable thorax and abdomen; instead, those with elongate forms have six-segmented bodies, while globular springtails have only two basic parts, i.e., a head and a rounded body.  Springtails have soft bodies that expand as they grow and therefore do not need to molt; they do not undergo any metamorphosis and none have wings.  Dehydration and being trapped are the greatest environmental threats to them although they can survive in a variety of temperatures and are fairly resistant to poisoning. Some are herbivores, feeding on seedlings, while others are predators.

Springtails are actually the easiest animals to find, in my experience.  If you lay a watering can on its side on moist soil for a while and then turn it over, elongate-bodied spingtails will often appear on top.  Globular springtails and those in the Poduromorpha order show up in the greatest numbers in very wet environments, such as drainage conduits. Springtails are also common in moist compost heaps and raking will expose them, and a few find their way to flowers.  They are generally very tiny, some species one mm long or less even as adults, and magnifying lenses are needed to see them.  They have moderately long, multi-segmented thick antennae and sometimes profuse body hairs. 

As unusual as their body structure might be, they have one feature in common with humans: their mouthparts are all internal!

Springtails of different species and even different orders are often thrown together by circumstance:

Some of the mostly globular springtails pictured on the left, with an elongate-bodied one (on the far right), Durham, NC, 1/19/17, in a large bubble in a drainage conduit.  The species of the large elongate springtail is Isotoma arctica.  Springtails, Durham, NC, 2/7/19. The species of the large elongate springtail (and a smaller one of similar shape) is Isotoma arctica. 100+ mostly globular springtails, which accumulated in a drainage conduit.  Durham, NC, 1/19/17  

Elongate-bodied Springtails (Suborder Entomobryomorpha)

Lower taxa IDs of photos taken prior to 2009 were provided by Frans Janssens.

Entomobrya genus, family Entomobryidae

Elongate springtail (Entomobrya bicolor), Durham, NC, 12/1/18 Elongate springtail  (Entomobrya atrocincta), Durham, NC, 3/11/22 Elongate springtail (Entomobrya atrocincta), Durham, NC, 12/26/23 Adult female and juvenile male springtails (Entomobrya atrocincta), the adult about 1 mm long,  Durham, NC, 5/1/08 Adult female springtail (Entomobrya atrocincta), Durham, NC, 5/13/08. Elongate springtail, Durham, NC, 2/18/20.  Probably (Entomobrya atrocincta). Subadult male springtail (Entomobrya atrocincta, family Entomobryidae), Durham, NC, 5/9/08. Banded Springtail (Entomobrya assuta), Durham, NC, 12/29/20        

Tomocerus genus

Springtail, most likely a member of the Tomocerus genus.  Peaks of Otter, Bedford County, VA, 7/18/12. It was ~4 mm long and appeared on a leaf in a forest. Springtail (Tomocerus genus (maybe), Tomoceridae family), Durham, 6/30/08.  This springtail was 2 or 3 mm long.  NOTE: According to the Tree of Life Web, the Tomoceridae are now part of a new (unamed) order. Springtail (Tomocerus genus, maybe), about 4 mm long.  Durham, NC, 9/14/08 Springtail (most likely a member of the Tomocerus genus), Durham, NC, 11/30/16 Springtail (most likely a member of the Tomocerus genus), showing one antennae and the two-forked furcula, normally kept tucked under the abdomen.  Found in leaf litter, Durham, NC, 11/25/09          

Other slender-bodied springtails

Springtail, on a flower, Durham, NC, 6/20/09 Springtail, Durham, NC, 7/13/07. It was about 1 mm long. Very tiny springtail, Durham, NC, 11/25/09.  It might not belong in this order, but was also found in leaf litter.    

Globular Springtails (Order Simphypleona)

Bourletiella genus, Bourletiellidae family, Sminthuroidea superfamily

Globular springtails (Bourletiella arvalis), Durham, NC, 2/7/19 Same globular springtail (Bourletiella arvalis), Durham, NC, 11/1/22 A globular springtail (possibly Bourletiella genus), Durham, NC, 2/7/19          

Ptenothrix genus, Ptenothricinae subfamily, Dicyrtomidae family

Globular springtail (Ptenothrix unicolor, family Dicyrtomidae), seen on a log showing evidence of termite tunnels.  Durham, NC, 10/25/12.  ID thanks to Frans Janssen. Globular springtail (Ptenothrix beta), Durham, NC, 11/26/20.  Globular springtail (Ptenothrix beta), Durham, NC, 2/23/22 Globular springtail (Ptenothrix beta), Durham, NC, 1/19/23 Another Globular springtail (Ptenothrix beta), Durham, NC, 1/19/23          

Sminthurus mencenbergae, Sminthurinae subfamily, Sminthuridae family, Sminthuroidea superfamily

Globular springtail (Sminthurus mencenbergae), Durham, NC, 12/12/17. ID thanks to Frans Janssens. Globular springtail (Sminthurus mercenbergae), Durham, NC, 5/2/19          

Sminthurinus atrapallidus, Katiannidae family, Katiannoidea superfamily

Two globular springtails, Sminthurinus atrapallidus on the left.  The one on the right is a member of the Sminthurididae family; ID thanks to Frans Janssens.  Durham, NC, 2/7/19 Four globular springtails (Sminthurinus atrapallidus), Durham, NC, 2/7/19 Globular springtails, Durham, 4/2/18, the blue ones Sminthurinus atrapallidus. Seen in a drainage conduit.          


Springtail (Katianna genus), Durham, NC, 12/15/19 Front view of a globular springtail (Katianna genus), and rear views of two others, Durham, NC, 1/19/17 Globular springtail (Katianna genus).  Durham, NC, 3/13/18.


Globular springtail (Katianna genus), Durham, NC, 1/22/21 Another globular springtail (Katianna genus), Durham, NC, 1/22/21 Globular springtails, Durham, NC, 1/21/21, mostly Katianna genus.          


Order Poduromorpha

Springtail (maybe genus Morulina), Durham, NC, 4/2/18 Springtail (Onychiuridae family, Onychiuroidea superfamily), Durham, NC, 12/15/19          

Copyright 2005-2021 Dorothy E. Pugh