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Having a spring in your…tail

August 10, 2022

On a faunal scale much smaller than dogs and cats, even smaller than mosquitos are six-legged creatures known as Springtails. Even though they have six legs they are not insects because they have internal mouthparts. Insects have external ones. Springtails feed on a variety of foods though most are vegetarians. They are commonly found in leaf litter where they breakdown vegetable matter into nutrients for the soil. They are called springtails because under their bodies is curled a ‘tail’ known as a furcula. When disturbed the furcula explosively hits the ground propelling the creature forward.

There are many different types of Springtails. Last week I came across the broken top of a white-gilled mushroom lying upside down on the ground. After picking it up a rush of red springtails emerged from the gills (pictured above). These are springtails of the order Poduromorpha characterised by an oval shaped plump body, short legs and two noticeable antennae. Red Springtails feed on the spores of fungi. If you look careful at the gills of most mushrooms you will find springtails though not all of them will be red.

Technically these springtails are neither vegetarians or fungivores but are more correctly classed as sporivores – another word for your vocabulary!

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