Springtails in Houston
Image via Flickr byLORD v

Springtails, also known as collembolans, are six-legged omnivores that usually feed on decaying plant material, algae, and fungi. Despite their tiny size and bug-like appearance, springtails are not technically insects. They break down dead plant matter and spread fungal spores, which helps keep plants healthy, and since they eat fungi as well, they are good balancers for the ecosystem.

These creatures are named for a forked, tail-like body part called a furcula, which extends from the tip of the abdomen under the body toward the head. You may have spotted these creatures in Houston and suburbs like West University, Greater Memorial, and Rice. The purpose of the furcula is to make the springtail leap away when threatened, hence the name. Some species can jump as high as six inches in the air. However, they only use this to escape a perceived threat because they cannot accurately control to spring; this is important to their survival, however, as they have poor eyesight and cannot move quickly with their legs.

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