springtail, common name for any of the minute, primitive six-legged arthropods of the order Collembola. The springtail is named for a springlike mechanism on the underside of the abdomen. When at rest, the organ is folded forward and held in place under tension by a clasping structure; when the mechanism is released, the insect is able to jump a distance many times its own length. Of cosmopolitan distribution, springtails may be found in moist, dark places, on the surface of freshwater or tidal pools, and even on snow. They feed on decaying vegetation, algae, pollen, and other materials. Springtails are classified in the phylum Arthropoda, class Entognatha, order Collembola.
The Columbia Electronic Encyclopedia, 6th ed. Copyright © 2012, Columbia University Press. All rights reserved.
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