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"The name "Collembola" is derived from "Colle" = glue and "embolon" = piston or peg. This refers to the belief that the ventral tube has adhesive properties, that is, that it is a "glue-peg". However, the tube's function is primarily for excretion and maintaining water balance" - (N.C. State Entomology Dept.)

Among the prominent derived characteristics of this group are:

  • Ventral tube ("collophore") on segment 1 of abdomen (adhesive in some groups, but primarily involved with excretion and water transport)
  • Springing mechanism formed from retinaculum on segment 3, furcula on segment 4
  • 4-segmented antennae (segments sometimes subsegmented, giving the appearance of more than 4 segments)
  • 6 abdominal segments
Other characteristics include:
    Indirect sperm transfer with globular stalked spermatophore
  • Some Neanuridae have polytene chromosomes
  • Adults continue moulting throughout life (up to 50 moults)
  • Reproductive instars alternate with feeding instars
  • Cerci lacking-->

Taxonomic Category Scientific Name Common Name
Phylum Arthropoda Arthropods
Class Insecta Insects
Order Collembola Springtail

elongated-bodies springtails
  • Entomobryidae
  • Isotomidae
  • Onychiuridae
  • Poduridae
globular springtails
  • Sminthuridae


photo copyright: Walter, D.E. 1999

Neosminthurus bakerii
photo copyright: Palacios-Vargas, J.G.1997

Geographic distribution
Springtails have the widest distribution of any hexapod group, occuring throughout the world, including Antarctica. They are probably the most abundant hexapods on Earth, with up to 250,000,000 individuals per square acre. They are found in soil, leaf litter, logs, dung, cave, shorelines, etc. There are about 6000 known species.

Natural history
  • Mating and Reproduction
    • In many species males deposit a spermatophore on the substrate for a the females to find, this is generally held at the top of a thin hair or petiole to keep it off the substrate. In some species the males deposit these wherever they feel like, in others they wait until finding a receptive female and then deposit some nearby. In some species competing males will eat each others spermatophores before setting up there own in the same place. Other species such as Bourletiella hortensis are more conventional and go in for courtship before the male makes a spermatophore available for the female and in Sphaeridia pumilis the male uses his third pair of legs to transfer a drop of sperm to the females genital opening. The eggs are deposited singly by some species and in large masses which may be contributed to by a number of females. A female will lay about 90 to 150 eggs during her life, though this also varies with species. The eggs take about a month to hatch at 8 degrees C but are quicker at warmer temperatures, Tomocerus plumbeus eggs hatch in 3-4 day at about 20 degrees C most will live for about a year. The young go through between 5 and 13 moults before reaching sexual maturity and the time between moults varies with species and temperature from as little as 3.8 days in Callyntrura chibai at 26 C to 110 days for Gulgastrura reticulosa.

Links to other sites

Michael Howell, Ecology Major, University of Georgia, Athens

Thanks to Sabina Gupta, Denise Lim, and Dr. John Pickering for technical and web support in devoloping this page.

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Following modified from Insect Collection, University of Guelph
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Class and Order - COLLEMBOLA
(Greek, kolla = glue; embolon = tail)
Common Name: springtails
Distribution: Cosmopolitan

Springtails are unlike any other organisms, and therefore difficult to misidentify to the order level. Their unique "spring-tail", the tube like collophore under the front part of the abdomen and the fused tibiotarsus are all distinguishing features of these tiny hexapods.

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Following served from California State University, Chico
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Following served from Podura aquatica, Natural History Museum of the City of Geneva
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Following modified from Photos, University of Michigan
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Dr. Carrel
Archbold Biological Station
-- Ants
-- Collembola
-- Mites
Hobbies / Activities

Collembola Photo Album

Collembolans, or springtails, are one of the most common animals near the bottom of the food web in a forest. We have made a pictorial key to identify the various species.


Website design by Irena Marinova .
University of Missouri Biological Sciences Dept. Dr. Carrels Home Page

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