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Springtails are six-legged arthropods from the order Collembola that were once considered as true insects, They are now regarded as


the largest direct ancestors of hexapods with the remaining two being proturans and diplurans. Now these three groups of non-insect hexapods are together commonly known as Entognatha due to their anatomy which has proved them possessing internal mouthparts being the key feature of the group Entognatha. They are no longer considered as insects due to their inner mouthparts having to non-show any relations with than of any other insect order. Similar to Diplurans, they have an omnivorous diet compromising of both plants and animals, however due to their tendency to prefer rotting, decaying and dead matter they can either be saprophytic or scavengers.

Etymology[]

The word Collembola is from the ancient Greek κόλλα kólla "glue" and ἔμβολος émbolos "peg"; this name was given due to the existence of the collophore, which was previously thought to stick to surfaces to stabilize the creature.

Morphology[]

Members of the Collembola are normally less than 6 mm (0.24 in) long, have six or fewer abdominal segments, and possess a tubular appendage (the collophore or ventral tube) with reversible, sticky vesicles, projecting ventrally from the first abdominal segment. It is believed to be associated with fluid uptake and balance, excretion, and orientation of the organism itself. Most species have an abdominal, tail-like appendage known as a furcula. It is located on the fourth abdominal segment of collembolans and is folded beneath the body, held under tension by a small structure called the retinaculum (or tenaculum). When released, it snaps against the substrate, flinging the springtail into the air and allowing for rapid evasion and migration. All of this takes place in as little as 18 milliseconds.

Springtails also possess the ability to reduce their body size by as much as 30% through subsequent ecdyses (molting) if temperatures rise high enough. The shrinkage is genetically controlled. Since warmer conditions increase metabolic rates and energy requirements in organisms, the reduction in body size is advantageous to their survival.

The Poduromorpha and Entomobryomorpha have an elongated body, while the Symphypleona and Neelipleona have a globular body. Collembola lack a tracheal respiration system, which forces them to respire through a porous cuticle, with the notable exception of the Sminthuridae, which exhibit a rudimentary, although fully functional, tracheal system. The anatomical variance present between different species partially depends on soil morphology and composition. Surface-dwellers are generally larger, have darker pigments, have longer antennae and functioning furcula. Sub-surface-dwellers are usually unpigmented, have elongated bodies, and reduced furcula. They can be categorized into four main forms according to soil composition and depth: atmobiotic, epedaphic, hemiedaphic, and euedaphic. Atmobiotic species inhabit macrophytes and litter surfaces. They are generally 8-10 millimeters in length, pigmented, have long limbs, and a full set of ocelli (photoreceptors). Epedaphic species inhabit upper litter layers and fallen logs. They are slightly smaller and have less pronounced pigments, as well as less developed limbs and ocelli than the atmobiotic species. Hemiedaphic species inhabit the lower litter layers of decomposing organic material. They are 1-2 millimeters in length, have dispersed pigmentation, shortened limbs, and a reduced number of ocelli. Euedaphic species inhabit upper mineral layers known as the humus horizon. They are smaller than hemiedaphic species; have soft, elongated bodies; lack pigmentation and ocelli; and have reduced or absent furca.

Poduromorphs inhabit the epedaphic, hemiedaphic, and euedaphic layers and are characterized by their elongated bodies and conspicuous segmentation – three thoracic segments, six abdominal segments, and a prothorax.

The digestive tract of collembolan species consists of three main components: the foregut, midgut, and hindgut. The midgut is surrounded by a network of muscles and lined with a monolayer of columnar or cuboidal cells. Its function is to mix and transport food from the lumen into the hindgut through contraction. Many species of syntrophic bacteria, archaea, and fungi are present in the lumen. These different digestive regions have varying pH to support specific enzymatic activities and microbial populations. The anterior portion of the midgut and hindgut is slightly acidic (with a pH of approximately 6.0) while the posterior midgut portion is slightly alkaline (with a pH of approximately 8.0). Between the midgut and hindgut is an alimentary canal called the pyloric region, which is a muscular sphincter.

Behavior[]

Eating behavior[]

Specific feeding strategies and mechanisms are employed to match specific niches. Herbivorous and detritivorous species fragment biological material present in soil and leaf litter, supporting decomposition and increasing the availability of nutrients for various species of microbes and fungi. Carnivorous species maintain populations of small invertebrates such as nematodes, rotifers, and other collembolan species. Springtails commonly consume fungal hyphae and spores, but also have been found to consume plant material and pollen, animal remains, colloidal materials, minerals and bacteria.

Distribution[]

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 soil microorganisms. In a mature deciduous woodland in temperate climate, leaf litter and vegetation typically support 30 to 40 species of springtails, and in the tropics the number may be over 100. In sheer numbers, they are reputed to be one of the most abundant of all macroscopic animals, with estimates of 100,000 individuals per square meter of ground, essentially everywhere on Earth where soil and related habitats (moss cushions, fallen wood, grass tufts, ant and termite nests) occur. Only nematodes, crustaceans, and mites are likely to have global populations of similar magnitude, and each of those groups except mites is more inclusive: though taxonomic rank cannot be used for absolute comparisons, it is notable that nematodes are a phylum and crustaceans a subphylum. Most springtails are small and difficult to see by casual observation, but one springtail, the so-called snow flea (Hypogastrura nivicola), is readily observed on warm winter days when it is active and its dark color contrasts sharply with a background of snow.

In addition, a few species routinely climb trees and form a dominant component of canopy faunas, where they may be collected by beating or insecticide fogging. These tend to be the larger (>2 mm) species, mainly in the genera Entomobrya and Orchesella, though the densities on a per square meter basis are typically 1–2 orders of magnitude lower than soil populations of the same species. In temperate regions, a few species (e.g. Anurophorus spp., Entomobrya albocincta, Xenylla xavieri, Hypogastrura arborea) are almost exclusively arboreal. In tropical regions a single square meter of canopy habitat can support many species of Collembola.

The main ecological factor driving the local distribution of species is the vertical stratification of the environment: in woodland a continuous change in species assemblages can be observed from tree canopies to ground vegetation then to plant litter down to deeper soil horizons. This is a complex factor embracing both nutritional and physiological requirements, together with behavioural trends, dispersal limitation and probable species interactions. Some species have been shown to exhibit negative or positive gravitropism, which adds a behavioural dimension to this still poorly understood vertical segregation. Experiments with peat samples turned upside down showed two types of responses to disturbance of this vertical gradient, called "stayers" and "movers". As a group, springtails are highly sensitive to desiccation, because of their tegumentary respiration, although some species with thin, permeable cuticles have been shown to resist severe drought by regulating the osmotic pressure of their body fluid. The gregarious behaviour of Collembola, mostly driven by the attractive power of pheromones excreted by adults, gives more chance to every juvenile or adult individual to find suitable, better protected places, where desiccation could be avoided and reproduction and survival rates (thereby fitness) could be kept at an optimum. Sensitivity to drought varies from species to species and increases during ecdysis. Given that springtails moult repeatedly during their entire life (an ancestral character in Hexapoda) they spend much time in concealed micro-sites where they can find protection against desiccation and predation during ecdysis, an advantage reinforced by synchronized moulting. The high humidity environment of many caves also favours springtails and there are numerous cave adapted species, including one, Plutomurus ortobalaganensis living 1,980 metres (6,500 ft) down the Krubera Cave.

Reproduction[]

Sexual reproduction occurs through the clustered or scattered deposition of spermatophores by male adults. Stimulation of spermatophore deposition by female pheromones has been demonstrated in Sinella curviseta. Mating behavior can be observed in Symphypleona. Among Symphypleona, males of some Sminthuridae use a clasping organ located on their antenna. Many collembolan species, mostly those living in deeper soil horizons, are parthenogenetic, which favors reproduction to the detriment of genetic diversity and thereby to population tolerance of environmental hazards. Parthenogenesis (also called thelytoky) is under the control of symbiotic bacteria of the genus Wolbachia, which live, reproduce and are carried in female reproductive organs and eggs of Collembola. Feminizing Wolbachia species are widespread in arthropods and nematodes, where they co-evolved with most of their lineages.

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