Collembolans are often referred to as springtails because of the ability of many species to "jump" through the air. They do this by means of a specialized forked structure called the furcula, which is found on the ventral side of the fourth abdominal segment. Some springtails are able to leap as much as 10 cm . Although there is great diversity in Collembola, they can be generally recognized by their small size of between 0.25 and 6 mm in length; lack of compound eyes; 0 to 8 ommatidia on each side of the head; generally somewhat elongate mouthparts; short antennae, usually with 4 segments; one segmented tarsi that are fused with the tibia; and possession of a tube-like appendage called the collophore that is located on the ventral side of the first abdominal segment.

Collembolans are very common and abundant creatures, but are uncommonly encountered due to their small size and cryptic habits. Many species live in concealed habitats such as in the soil, leaf litter, under bark, in rotting logs, and in fungi. However, other species are found on the surface of both fresh water pools or seashores, on vegetation, in termite or ant nests, in caves, snow fields, and even on glaciers. The soil dwelling collembola typically feed on decaying vegetative material, fungi, and bacteria and other species feed on an array of things such as arthropod feces, pollen, algae, and many other substances and materials. There are 11 families in North America.


Collembolan photos by Steve Hopkin
Checklist of Collembola: Image Gallery