Order

CHAPTER

phylum class subclass • order monotypic order suborder family

PHYSICAL CHARACTERISTICS

Springtails have three distinct body regions (head; thorax, or midsection; and abdomen), no wings, and six legs, but they are not considered true insects. They form a group closely related to insects that includes proturans (order Protura) and diplurans (order Diplura). All of these animals have mouth-parts located inside a special pocket in their head.

Springtails range in length from 0.008 to 0.4 inches (0.2 to 10 millimeters). Species living in caves, deep in leaf litter, or soil are whitish or grayish, while those living out in the open are usually darker or brighter in color. Their bodies are covered in flattened hairlike structures called scales. These insects might have no eyes at all, or they might have small groups of simple eyes, each with single lenses. The mouthparts are needlelike for sucking fluids or have grinding surfaces for chewing.

On the underside of the abdomen is a special organ that absorbs moisture from the surrounding habitat, to maintain the body's water balance. Farther back on the abdomen is a forklike structure that inspired the common name "springtail." The six-segmented abdomen does not have pinchers or a tail at the tip.

GEOGRAPHIC RANGE

Springtails are found worldwide, from the tropics to the edges of the polar ice caps.

HABITAT

Springtails live in warm, damp places. They are especially common in leaf litter and soil. Some species are found in caves, the burrows of small mammals, or the nests of ants and termites. They also live in moss, under stones, on the surfaces of ponds and lakes, and along rocky seashores. Others are found high in the trees of tropical rainforests or on the surface of snowbanks. Springtails are sometimes so common in grasslands that there are more than 596,000 individuals per square yard (500,000 per square meter).

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