UK Collembola taxonomy and ecology

Entomobrya albocincta by Peter Shaw

These pages are a resource for the study of Collembola (springtails) within the Britain and Ireland, hosted by Roehampton University’s Centre for Research in Ecology and maintained by Peter Shaw. Peter is the UK recorder for Collembola, and studies the distribution and habitat choices of these animals.  He has set up a page introducing them - their history, lifestyle, links to molecular work (and why you do not need to buy Collembola repellant !) on his home page here.


Organisation of data

All UK species are set out on the taxonomy page using a strictly taxonomic sequence. Further information is given on some species on pages linked from the taxonomy page. These individual species pages were originally created by Dr Steve Hopkin (Reading University) before his untimely death in 2006, and much of the text originates with Steve, but will be updated as new distributional and taxonomic data become available. Thanks are due to Mrs Ailsa Hopkin for permission to transfer the files. 

Distribution maps

The intention is to supply a distribution map for all Collembola that have been credibly recorded in the UK, along with information about their taxonomically distinctive features and (where possible) their ecology. These pages should be used in conjunction with the Field Studies Council guide A Key to the Collembola (Springtails) of Britain and Ireland (Hopkin, 2007).

The maps record the presence of Collembola in the hectad (10km by 10km) Ordnance Survey Grid squares of Britain and Ireland. For the maps of individual species, all published records are included as green dots. Red dots indicate that presence has been confirmed by examination of microscope slides in the Natural History Museum, London (NHML), specimens in Steve Hopkin's reference collection, or material sent to him by recorders. Note that Orkney and Shetland have been relocated from their true geographic positions. The maps were produced with the DMAP computer program

Coverage and species richness maps

  • Coverage map of the hectads from which at least one species of Collembola has been recorded.
  • Species richness map showing the number of species recorded from each hectad.

Problems with identification

Although the higher-level taxonomy of the group is stable, the classification at the species level remains beset by uncertainty. Steve uncovered some errors of identification within the specimens in the NHML collections, along with specimens whose names seem unlikely but whose preservation is too poor to allow confident identification. 

The errors go both ways, with both ‘splitting’ and ‘lumping’ having taken place. Modern molecular studies often supporting colour-pattern based splits that were regarded as merely within-species variation for decades (eg Dicyrtomina saundersii / D. ornata, or Isotomurus palustris / I. maculata). Conversely, within the family Onychiuridea there has been an undue degree of splitting based on the distribution patterns of ‘pseudocelli’ (glands for releasing toxic defensive chemicals), epitomised by the observation that within one animal there maybe an asymmetric distribution of these glands so that one half of the animal keys to a different species than the other half! Detailed and extensive molecular studies will be needed to bring clarity within this family. At present the arrangement of families and subfamilies follows the scheme of Deharveng (2004).

Facebook icon    Twitter icon    Instagram icon    LinkedIn icon © Roehampton University