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Field and Swamp: Animals and Their Habitats

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Non-Insect, Non-Spider Arthropods (Phylum Arthropoda, kingdom Animalia, domain Eukaryota)

These taxonomic classifications fascinate me.  It takes humans, dogs, primates, moles, tapirs and mice, among many others, to make up a single class (Mammalia), but just centipedes to make another, and just springtails to make up yet another!

Elongate-bodied Springtails (Suborder Arthropleona, class Collembola, subphylum Hexapoda)

Springtails are not considered to be insects partly because of their forked appendage called the "furcula," kept under the abdomen and used to propel the springtail distances many times greater than its length.  Also unlike insects, they do not have a clearly distinguishable thorax and abdomen; instead, those with elongate forms have six-segmented bodies.  Dehydration and being trapped are the greatest environmental threats to them although they can survive in a variety of temperatures and are fairly resistant to poisoning.

Springtails are actually the easiest animals to find, in my experience.  If you lay a watering can on its side on moist soil for a while and then turn it over, they will often appear on top.   They are also common in moist compost heaps and raking will expose them, and some find their way to flowers.  However,they are generally very tiny, often 1 mm long or less even as adults, and magnifying lenses are needed to see them well enough to recognize them.  They have moderately long, multi-segmented thick antennae and sometimes profuse body hairs. Some are herbivores, feeding on seedlings, while others are predators.  They do not undergo any metamorphosis, mostly simply increasing in size without molting.  NOTE:  The classification Suborder Arthropleona is used by the Iowa State Entomology Department.

Lower taxa IDs of photos taken prior to 2009 were provided by Frans Janssen.

Springtail, Peaks of Otter, Bedford County, VA, 7/18/12. It was ~4 mm long. Adult female and juvenile male springtails (Entomobrya atrocincta, family Entomobryidae), the adult about 1 mm long,  Durham, NC, 5/1/08 Adult female springtail (Entomobrya atrocincta, family Entomobryidae), Durham, NC, 5/13/08. Subadult male springtail (Entomobrya atrocincta, family Entomobryidae), Durham, NC, 5/9/08. Springtail (Tomocerus genus (maybe), Tomoceridae family), Durham, 6/30/08.  This springtail was 2 or 3 mm long. Springtail (Tomocerus genus, maybe), about 4 mm long.  Durham, NC, 9/14/08        


Springtail, on a flower, Durham, NC, 6/20/09 Springtail, Durham, NC, 7/13/07.   It was about 1 mm long. Springtail, showing one antennae and the two-forked furcula, normally kept tucked under the abdomen.  Durham, NC, 11/25/09          

Globular Springtails (suborder Simphypleona, class Collembola, subphylum Hexapoda)

Globular springtail (Ptenothrix unicolor, fammily Dicyrtomidae), seen on a log showing evidence of termite tunnels.  ID thanks to Frans Janssen.          

Centipedes (class Chilopoda)

Scutigeromorpha order

I think this might be a member of a species of House Centipede    

Scolopendromorpha order

Centipede, Johnston Mill Nature Preserve, Orange County, NC, 11/03/07 Rural Chatham County, NC, 11/9/05. This very tiny centipede appeared under the bark of a dying tree. Centipede, Durham, NC, 12/19/06

Millipedes (class Diplopoda)

Times have changed!  I used to see Roly-polies (Pill Millipedes, order Glomerida) all the time, and now I can't remember the last time I saw any. 

Spirobolida order

Millipede (family spirobolidae), Durham, 8/4/06 Millipede (Narceus americanus), Southern Village walking path, Orange County, NC, 7/20/07.   The fly on top of the millipede followed it, landing in various different places on the millipede. Eno River State Park, Old Cole Mill Road access, 11/7/05.  This tiny probably immature millipede looked like a land-based Tubifex worm at a distance.

Polydesmidae order

Millipede (Sigmoria aberrans, family Xystodesmidae, Johnston's Mill Nature Preserve, Orange County, NC, 8/25/05.  This millipede species is found only in North Carolina and Virginia.  They pop up in my neighborhood in Durham regularly but infrequently. Millipede, Polydesmida order, Durham, NC, 11/9/07.  At first glance, it looks like a centipede, though.

Pseudoscorpions (order Pseudoscorpiones, class Arachnida, subphylum Chelicerata)

Although the House Pseudoscorpion is apparently the most familiar, pseudoscorpions of other species, of which there are several dozen in the U.S., are common in the soil and found in leaf litter.  They also have been known to hitch rides on other animals, transported merchandise,

Pseudoscorpion, Durham, NC, 4/7/17 Same pseudoscorpion Pseudoscorpion, about 1 mm long. Durham, NC, 8/25/09        

Harvestmen (order Opiliones, class Arachnida, subphylum Chelicerata)

We used to call these "Daddy-long-legs" when I was a kid, but now that common name is properly applied only to spiders.

Harvestman with prey, NC Botanical Garden, Orange County, NC, 7/2/05.

© 2005-2008 Dorothy E. Pugh


Jacobs, S. (2011) Pseudoscorpions.  Retrieved April 8,2011 from http://ento.psu.edu/extension/factsheets/pseudoscorpions

Nelson Jr., S. (2011) Pseudoscorpions: Entomology Notes #16.  Retrieved April 8, 2011 from http://insects.ummz.lsa.umich.edu/mes/notes/entnote16.html