In 2016, I shared an ornithological observation (see my bird images) post with a friend who, after a long unsuccessful wait, said "Hi Philippe, I leave the place. No need to insist, we will not see anything today, so much to go to photograph springtails ... ". I nodded knowingly, though completely unaware of what the springtails was.
Back home, some investigations allow me to discover the existence of these arthropods, among the most widespread on Earth and decide me parallel to try to observe them. My first outings are terribly disappointing, not the slightest springtail in sight. I need a good dose of perseverance to finally locate them when they appear infinitely smaller than I had imagined. From now on, at least, I'll know what to look for.
When I talk about it, I notice how little springtails are known. In addition, I measure the poverty of works of popularization in France, except for a small guide1, a photo album2 or some publications3, I find only scientific articles too "pointed" for a neophyte. On the Internet, I cross a few pages "perso" which, without being uninteresting, leave me on my hunger. Fortunately, I discover an unavoidable site that will become my reference: collembolla.org
Just as astronomy had taken my time (visit my astronomy site) a few years ago, my foray into the fascinating country of springtails was just as passionate. My meeting with these tiny animals and the desire to observe them or photograph them, however, imposed me some expenses in purchases of material, without which it would be very difficult to reach a so fascinating world.
I wanted to share my "discovery" through this site which, I hope, will not seem too superficial to the informed visitor or too forbidding for the one who, like me, did not know until then the very existence of these lilliputiens.
Etymological precision: The French term collembole comes from the ancient Greek "κόλλα", kólla (glue) and "ἐμβάλλω", embállô (throw in).
If the jumping character of "collembola" is well signified by the Greek term "embállô", the presence of the term "kólla" (glue) is less obvious. We can presume that it comes from the fact that observations have shown the ability of springtail to remain attached to smooth vertical walls or even inverted. But when it is known that the ends of its legs are clawed, the fact that it can keep itself fixed remains enigmatic. We then find an explanation in the morphology of the springtail with the presence of a ventral tube called collophore - ko'lla (glue) fe'rein (to carry/to support) - this organ is able to keep the springtail on absolutely smooth surfaces, thanks to kinds of suction cups with which it is provided (see here). We therefore have an explanation for the two peculiarities of springtails that led to baptize them thus.
The English word Springtail, more recent, is built from the words "spring" (jumping), not to be confused with its namesake meaning Spring, and "tail". In this English version of this site I use the term springtail, more usual than Collembola, Latin form used by biologists, which even has its adjective derivative collembolan.
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1 "Ces animaux minuscules" - Y.Coineau/R.Cléva/G.du Chatenet -Delachaux et Niestlé - 1997.
2 "Planète collemboles, la vie secrète des sols" - Biotope édition - Jérôme Cortet / Philippe Lebeaux
3 - "Le petit collembole illustré" - Arvensis (2010) – Jean-Marc Thibaud / Cyrille A. D’Haese- (téléchargement n° 51-52)
- "Biology of the spingtails" - Oxford University Press (1997) – Stephen P. Hopkin