AskDefine | Define springtail

Dictionary Definition

springtail n : any of numerous minute wingless primitive insects possessing a special abdominal appendage that allows the characteristic nearly perpetual springing pattern; found in soil rich in organic debris or on the surface of snow or water [syn: collembolan]

User Contributed Dictionary



  1. Any of various wingless insects, of the order Collembola, that have spring-like legs.


  • Finnish: hyppyhäntäinen
  • Italian: collembolo

Extensive Definition

Springtails (Order Collembola) form the largest of the three orders of modern hexapods (along with the Protura and Diplura) that are no longer considered insects. The three orders are sometimes grouped together in a class called Entognatha because they have internal mouthparts, but they do not appear to be more closely related to one another than to insects, which have external mouthparts. Recent genetic studies suggest that Collembola are a separate evolutionary line from the other Hexapoda .
Members of Collembola are normally less than 6 mm long, have six or fewer abdominal segments and possess an eversible tubular appendage (the collophore or ventral tube) projecting ventrally from the first abdominal segment. Most species have an abdominal, tail-like appendage, the furcula, that is folded beneath the body to be used for jumping when the animal is threatened. It is held under tension by a small structure called the retinaculum and when released, snaps against the substrate, flinging the springtail into the air.
Suborder Arthropleona has an elongated body, while Symphypleona (without sensory fields on the body) and Neelipleona (with sensory fields) have a globular body.
Springtails are cryptozoa frequently found in leaf litter and other decaying material , where they are primarily detritivores and microbivores, and one of the main biological agents responsible for the control and the dissemination of microorganisms. In sheer numbers, they are reputed to be one of the most abundant of all macroscopic animals, with estimates of 100,000 individuals per cubic meter of topsoil, essentially everywhere on Earth where soil and related habitats (moss cushions, fallen wood, grass tufts, ant nests) occur; only nematodes, crustaceans, and mites are likely to have global populations of similar magnitude, and each of those groups is of a higher taxonomic rank (nematodes are a phylum, crustaceans a subphylum, and mites are a subclass). Most springtails are small and difficult to see by casual observation, but one species, Hypogastrura nivicola (the so-called snow flea), is readily observed on warm winter days when it is active and its dark color contrasts sharply with a background of snow.
Various sources and publications have suggested that some springtails may parasitize humans, but this is entirely inconsistent with their biology, and no such phenomenon has ever been scientifically confirmed, though it has been documented that the scales or hairs from collembolans can cause irritation when rubbed into the flesh . They can sometimes be abundant indoors in damp places such as bathrooms and basements, and under such circumstances may be found on one's person, but this is only accidental.


commons Collembola
springtail in Catalan: Col·lèmbol
springtail in Czech: Chvostoskoci
springtail in Danish: Springhaler
springtail in German: Springschwänze
springtail in Estonian: Hooghännalised
springtail in Spanish: Collembola
springtail in Esperanto: Vostsaltuloj
springtail in French: Collembola
springtail in Ido: Haltiko
springtail in Italian: Collembola
springtail in Hebrew: קפזנביים
springtail in Latvian: Kolembolas
springtail in Lithuanian: Kolembolos
springtail in Dutch: Springstaarten
springtail in Japanese: トビムシ目
springtail in Norwegian: Spretthaler
springtail in Polish: Skoczogonki
springtail in Portuguese: Collembola
springtail in Russian: Коллембола
springtail in Slovenian: Skakači (členonožci)
springtail in Finnish: Hyppyhäntäiset
springtail in Swedish: Hoppstjärtar
springtail in Chinese: 彈尾目
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