Sunday 5 January 2014

Water Springtail

Image Christian Fischer
Podura aquatica
Rising from peaceful, still waters, a huge colony of living tyres placidly congregate at an undisclosed location. They are Michelin Maggots, one of the earliest and most delicate stages of the Michelin Man life cycle.

Either that or they're Water Springtails. We'll just have to watch them grow up and see if at any point they become six feet tall.

Springtails are those tiny, 6-legged arthropods (hexapods) that are not considered to be insects because their mouth parts are internal. They're polite like that and such facial tidiness just isn't the true insect way.

Water Springtails are less than 2 mm (1/16 inch) long, which is barely anything at all. One thing they do have in their favour is numbers. They're found across the northern hemisphere and often gather together to float on ponds and they graze tiny food from the water's surface. They end up being one of the more visible Springtails as they mill around in these large, darkly-coloured crowds.

Being Springtails they also have the little, tuning fork shaped furcula under their belly. They can use this to jump off the water! Walking on water? That's cool, but can you do the triple jump?

The visibility and commonness of the Water Springtail means that it got described and named by scientists very early - by Linnaeus in 1758, in fact. They belong to the genus Podura along with three other species who weren't named until almost 100 years later.

Podura is the only genus within an entire superfamily called Poduroidea, but the Water Springtail was still named early enough for the order Poduromorpha to be named after them. And what's Poduromorpha?

Image: Kathie Hodge
Podgy ones! There are three kinds of Springtail - round ones, slim ones and podgy ones. Early discovery means that the Water Springtail became the podgy one. The founder of the Podgy Springtail dynasty. Such is the glory that can be ours if only we get together and make ourselves seen! It doesn't have to be in water but far too many people in a swimming pool is a remarkably eye-catching sight.


TexWisGirl said...

michelin maggots. :) too cute!

Joseph JG said...

No wonder they float!

Unknown said...

what do we do when they infest a person???