Multimedia Gallery - Soil Springtails

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ID # 66

Soil Springtails
This short video shows images and movement of soil springtails at 40 to 500X magnification.

STEM Standard addressed: ESS2E - Biogeology

Appropriate Grade Level(s)
  • 6-8
  • 9-12
  • College-level
Materials are best used for
  • Classroom Lectures
  • Laboratory Activities
  • Distance Education Classes
General Course Areas
  • Environmental Science
  • Introduction to Soil Science
  • Soil Microbiology

Category: Biology & Biochemistry

Collembola is the scientific name for a fascinating group of six-legged micro-animals commonly called springtails. Many can just be seen with good contrasting background by unaided eyes, but have amazing detail under magnification. They are 0.1 to 8 mm in size. Based on their normal position in the soil column, they have different features. Those near the surface are pigmented, have eyes, and long antennae. Those deep in the soil have no pigment, no eyes, and short antennae. Those at in-between depths have combinations of these traits. Springtails commonly consume fungal hyphae and spores but also eat organic debris and algae. Springtails are a favorite food for larger predators. One method to avoid being eaten is by a springing mechanism found on the abdomen of the organism. When threaten, they can trip the spring mechanism and literally jump away from danger; thus their name springtails. Springtails have been used in the laboratory as an early detector of soil pollution.

Organisms were grown on cornmeal extract agar using the procedures found in Loynachan (2006). Magnification of images are at 40 to 500X.

Amador, J.A., and J.H. Gorres. 2005. Fauna. pp. 181-200. In: D.M. Sylvia et al. (ed.) Principles and Applications of Soil Microbiology (2nd ed), Prentice Hall, Upper Saddle River, NJ. Coleman, D.C., and D.H. Wall. 2015. Soil fauna: Occurrence, biodiversity, and roles in ecosystem function. pp. 111-149. In: E.A. Paul (ed.) Soil Microbiology, Ecology, and Biochemistry (4th ed), Elsevier, New York, NY. Loynachan, T.E. 2006. Quick, easy method to show living soil organisms to high school or beginning-level college students. J. Nat. Res Life Sci. Ed. 35:202-208. Nardi, J.B. 2003. The world beneath our feet. Oxford University Press, New York, N.Y.

Peer Review: Yes

Provided By: Dr. Thomas E. Loynachan


  • * Tom Loynachan
    Iowa State University

Submitted By: Dr. Thomas E. Loynachan


  • microorganisms
  • Collembola
  • soil life
  • food chain
  • small fauna


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