Saturday, 20 July 2019

13.07.19 - Charnwood Lodge

Although Charnwood Lodge is the most heavily recorded site in VC55, I've only made one serious trip for springtails there previously, so it was past time to go back. There was a lot of the routine stuff I'm seeing everywhere at present - Deuterosminthurus pallipes, Pogonognathellus longicornis, Tomocerus minor. Notably, I also found a lot of juvenile Orchesella cincta, and some spanking new adults, a species I've not been seeing for the past few months now making a return:

Orchesella cincta

The highlight of Charnwood Lodge is the acid heath, and grubbing around in the Sphagnum produced a number of Isotoma viridis, which although not unexpected, I think is a new species record for this site:

Isotoma viridis

Saturday, 13 July 2019

30.06.19 - Owston

Owston Springtails

In spite of temperatures over 30C the previous day, springtails were around in the damp bits of Owston. Dicyrtomina ornata reappears in its usual spot but Entomobrya nivalis remains by far the most prevalent species I'm seeing at the present time.

Friday, 5 July 2019

Prepare for lift off!

Pogonognathellus longicornis

It is diagnostic of Pogonognathellus longicornis that this species is able to tightly curl both an4 and ant3 due to their flexible annular structure (c.f. Tomocerus, which is only able to curl ant4 slightly). Frans Jansens made the interesting comment on this photo that this individual is considering jumping and has curled ant4, presumably to avoid damage. This behaviour has not occurred to me before and I need to investigate this further next time I find some curly-wurlys to play with.

Tuesday, 2 July 2019

09.06.19 - Cribb's Meadow

Springtails of Rutland

Many springtails taking their summer break, but Deuterosminthurus pallipes and Entomobrya nivalis particularly abundant.

Tuesday, 25 June 2019

15.06.19 - Saddington Reservoir

Saddington Reservoir Springtails

A short collecting trip filling in a gap on the map. Clockwise from top left: Orchesella cincta, Entomobrya nicoleti, Entomobrya nivalis, Pogonognathellus longicornis.

Wednesday, 19 June 2019


There are two confirmed species of Willowsia in the UK. They resemble shiny, iridescent Entomobrya.

Willowsia platani is an aerial species resistant to desiccation and is found on trees and in buildings. This species has a variable pattern of pigmented bands and spots on the dorsal side (some specimens are much paler than those shown here):

Willowsia platani has characteristic leaf-shaped scales:

The mucro has two teeth and there is a spatulate tenant seta:

The empodium is about two-thirds the length of the claw:

In contrast, Willowsia buski is a plainer-looking species. The scales are a different shape, more triangular then W. platani. Photo by Philippe Garcelon:

Willowsia buski

Monday, 17 June 2019

Springtails of the North


I have to admit to still not putting too much effort into springtails recently. Although we've had rain now the ground is still very dry and unproductive so all samples have come from sweeping or beating vegetation. I sampled a couple of sites near Croxton Kerrial and also at charley on Charnwood. I didn't find anything very exciting but Deuterosminthurus pallipes is by far the most frequent species at the moment. Every one of the hundreds I have found have been the yellow form - I've still only ever found a single specimen of the purple nominate form.

Monday, 10 June 2019

Big trouble in Lepidocyrtus

Lepidocyrtus cyaneus"Everything is everywhere but the environment selects"

Early in the twentieth century the Dutch microbiologists Beijerinck and Becking proposed the hypothesis that "Everything is everywhere but the environment selects" to explain the distribution of microorganisms. This has been much debated but it makes a lot of sense for highly mobile organisms that can be blown on the wind. At what scale it stops being true is unclear, but ecological determinism means that for all species, the environment selects which species persist. One of the most important factors in selection is climate, which determines the current distribution of species and will determine how these change in the future. The flora and fauna of Britain bear the signs of restriction by and subsequent repopulation following the last ice age. Not much survived under the ice cap but there were geothermal islands and not all of the UK was glaciated. The inability of springtails to fly limits their spread and repopulation when the ice retreats but their small size and abundance means that they are able to persist in suitable niches in otherwise adverse environments. Thus the present day distribution of springtails carries the historical signature of climate change. A recent paper examines two genera of springtails, Entomobrya and Lepidocyrtus, and reveals not only the impact of glaciation but also present day relationships (Faria, Shaw & Emerson, 2019).

Springtail samples were collected from 98 sites across Britain and the DNA sequence of a region of the mitochondrial cytochrome oxidase I gene determined and used to establish relationships. The patterns revealed indicate both geographical and genetic relationships in these two genera. Analaysis identified 12 Operational Taxonomic Units (genetic groupings) for Entomobrya and 18 for Lepidocyrtus in Great Britain. Lepidocyrtus richness was significantly lower in glaciated than unglaciated areas, whereas there was no difference for Entomobrya richness. The data reveal evidence for population persistence of Entomobrya (some of our most familiar springtails) OTUs within Great Britain, estimated to extend back at least some 77,000 years.

For me however, the most interesting aspect of this paper is what it says about present day species. For the most part, the recognised UK Entomobrya species (albocincta, intermedia, marginata, multifasciata, nicoleti, nivalis) behave themselves - colour‐pattern morphospecies were generally monophyletic but concealed two or more mtDNA OTUs. However, the correspondence between morphospecies and OTU was less clear for UK Lepidocyrtus species (curvicollis, cyaneus, lanuginosus, lignorum, ruber, violaceus) - 6 morphospecies harbour 18 distinct OTUs. Specimens assigned to the morphospecies Lepidocyrtus cyaneus featured in seven OTUs, and the dominant OTU contained a mix of morphospecies (mainly L. lignorum and L. lanuginosus). Unexpectedly high cryptic species diversity has been noted previously in this genus and together these results suggest that key taxonomic features (mainly distribution of scales, ground colour) may be unreliable indicators of species boundaries. How exactly the genetic diversity of UK Lepidocyrtus species translates into physical variability is unclear, but may go some way to explain the length of time I often spend scratching my head when examining Lepidocyrtus specimens...

O’Malley, M.A. (2008) ‘Everything is everywhere: but the environment selects’: ubiquitous distribution and ecological determinism in microbial biogeography. Studies in History and Philosophy of Science Part C: Studies in History and Philosophy of Biological and Biomedical Sciences, 39(3), 314-325.

Faria CMA, Shaw P, Emerson BC. (2019) Evidence for the Pleistocene persistence of Collembola in Great Britain. J Biogeogr. 46: 1–15.
Abstract: Using two genera of springtail, Lepidocyrtus and Entomobrya (Collembola), we test for genetic signatures of Pleistocene persistence of soil arthropods in Great Britain. A region of the mitochondrial cytochrome oxidase I (COI) gene was sequenced for 1,150 Collembola specimens from the genera Lepidocyrtus and Entomobrya across Great Britain. Individuals were clustered into Operational Taxonomic Units (OTUs), and both OTU richness and geographical patterns of genetic variation within OTUs were compared between glaciated and unglaciated areas to identify signatures of OTU persistence through Pleistocene glacial events. Our analyses identified 12 Entomobrya and 18 Lepidocyrtus OTUs in Great Britain. Lepidocyrtus OTU richness was significantly lower in glaciated than unglaciated areas, whereas there was no difference for Entomobrya OTU richness. However, both genera presented clear patterns of geographically disjunct genetic variation and geographically localized diversification of OTUs. Estimated dates for the onset of in situ diversification events indicate population persistence that pre‐dates the Last Glacial Maximum. Patterns of genetic diversity within Collembola OTUs in Great Britain add to a growing body of evidence that elements of the invertebrate fauna have persisted in situ through Pleistocene glacial cycles. Genetic signatures of population persistence in more northern glaciated areas of Great Britain support a hypothesis of geothermal glacial refugia that call for further investigation with other soil mesofaunal taxa.

Saturday, 8 June 2019

The Pitfalls of Springtails

Isotomurus unifasciatus

For the past few weeks I have been running a pitfall trap in my garden. This is more of an experiment than a serious attempt at systematic recording but one observation has struck me as interesting. I started during a very dry period and at first only found Lepidocyrtus cyaneus and Orchesella cincta. After a week it rained and Tomocerus minor turned up in good numbers, and has remained present every day since. Although it is now raining quite regularly, on one day only there were quite a few Isotomurus unifasciatus in the trap, but they have never reappeared again. Of course, I am only running one trap, but the variability of recovery has been quite surprising - you would need to run quite a number of traps over quite a long period to accurately establish what species were present in a location.