by Piter Kehoma Boll
Many very small creatures live everywhere, yet we don’t even know that they are there, and even the few of us who do know still know very little about them. One of those creatures is Entomobrya nivalis, commonly known as the cosmopolitan springtail. The fact that it has a common name, however, does not make it a very well studied species, unfortunately.
As the common name implies, the cosmopolitan springtail is found all round the world, although it is much more common in the Northern Hemisphere, especially in Europe. Measuring about 2 mm in length, it has an average size for a springtail.
The natural habitat of this little creature are forests, and it may be found both in the leaf litter and on trees. Usually, the first instars, the juveniles, live in the leaf litter, where adults lay their eggs. During summer, adults migrate upward on the trees and live among lichens growing on the branches, a habitat that they seem to consider very cozy.
When winter approaches, and with it the freezing temperatures, the cosmopolitan springtail seeks shelter under lose portions of the bark. This shelter, however, is not enough to protect it from temperatures that would make it freeze to death. As a result, its hemolymph (“blood”) is full of antifreeze compounds that allow it to withstand temperatures as low as -18°C before freezing.
It is a small but tough guy.
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Meier, P.; Zettel, J. (1997) Cold hardiness in Entomobrya nivalis (Collembola, Entomobryidae): annual cycle of polyols and antifreeze proteins, and antifreeze triggering by temperature and photoperiod. Journal of Comparative Physiology B, 167(4): 297–304. https://doi.org/10.1007/s003600050077
Joosse-van Damme, E. N. G. (1965) Pitfall-trapping as a method for studying surface dwelling collembola. Zeitschrift für Morphologie und Ökologie der Tiere, 55(5): 587–596.
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