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Taxonomic group

Subclass: Collembola

Diagnostic features

Collembola springtails are 6-legged invertebrates that are now recognised as a separate group to the insects. Collembola have a small soft body, 6 jointed legs, conspicuous antennae and (often) a fleshy tail structure (furcula) that may be folded under the abdomen. The furcula can be used to flick the animal away from danger, hence the name “springtail”.

Typical habitats

Collembola are not really aquatic, but they are very common along the margins of freshwater habitats and often appear in stream invertebrate samples.


They feed on plant detritus and the microscopic organisms found in leaf litter and soil.

Indicator value

  • Hard bottom: 6
  • Soft bottom: 5.3

The tolerance values (ranging from 0 to 10) give an indication of which are the sensitive taxa (values of 8 or more) and which are the tolerant taxa (values of 3 or less). For more information see: Indicator species

Collembola appear in samples taken from all sorts of streams, and may not be useful indicators of water quality. They have tolerance values of 6 (hard bottom sites) and 5.3 (soft bottom sites).