Illinois Natural History Survey - University of Illinois


Kingdom - Animalia

Phylum - Arthropoda

Class - Hexapoda

Order - Collembola

There are approximately 8000 species of springtails worldwide, in 18 families.  In Illinois, there are at least 204 known species.



Springtails (Order Collembola) are tiny, insect-like animals, typically less than 6 mm (0.24 in) long; the four new species discovered by INHS scientists this year range in size from 0.65 mm (0.03 in) to 2.2 mm (0.09 in). The name springtail comes from the furcula, a forked, tail-like appendage capable of propelling an individual up to 10 cm (3.9 in).


  • furcula - spring like structure on abdomen
  • six or fewer segments
  • no wings
  • segmented antennae
  • mouthparts are entognathus - withdrawn into the head (see University of Minnesota illustration)

Springtails are most commonly found in soil and leaf litter, but they have invaded other specialized habitats, including caves. Often overlooked because of their small size and subterranean habitats, they are an important part of many ecosystems as decomposers and nutrient recyclers.


INHS Researchers recently described 4 new species of springtails from caves in southern Illinois!  Read more about these new species on our blog.

Illinois Natural History Survey

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