Collembola, or springtails, are small (1-2 mm), primitive wingless invertebrates (Apterygotes) and are amongst the most abundant and widespread
organisms in the world. They occur in all habitat types from the Arctic to the Antarctic, and are thought to be more closely related to crustaceans than to
insects. They are characterized by having a furca (springing organ) used for jumping, and also a ventral tube which is thought to be important in water balance.
Collembola play an important role in ecosystem functioning, yet our knowledge about this group in South Africa remains poor. This lack of knowledge largely stems
from our poor understanding about the number of species that exist (taxonomy) and their evolutionary relationships. Collembola experts such as Drs Deharveng and
Bedos have argued that this low species count is not an inherent characteristic of the group but rather the result of poor field sampling with many regions of the
world never having been comprehensively explored and a lack of taxonomic expertise to identify and describe species. As part of the funded Franco / South African
PROTEA bilateral, a project was initiated (between researchers at the Centre for Invasion Biology and at the Museum National díHistoire Naturelle) to document the
taxonomic and genetic diversity of Collembola in the Cape Floristic Region using a combination of molecular and morphological techniques. Since 2009, Charlene
Janion (C·I·B Ph.D. student and technician) and Bettine Jansen van Vuuren (C·I·B core team member, University of Johannesburg) have been
working closely with leading taxonomists from the Museum National díHistoire Naturelle, Paris, acquiring knowledge in order to identify the vast number of species
from the Western Cape while also contributing to the Barcode of Life Project (see www.boldsystems.org). DNA
barcoding is widely used not only to document diversity, but also to identify species. Barcoding has been especially useful in this study to identify invasive species,
such as Isotomurus cf. maculatus and Neaura muscorum, and comparisons between South African and European populations of other suspected
invasive species are in progress.
Dr. Louis Deharveng searching for springtails.
During a sampling trip, a new springtail species has been discovered in bat guano in one of the caves on Table Mountain. The description for the new
species, Triacanthella madiba, has recently been published in Zookeys and is the fifth new springtail species to be described from this project. This
is not only the first record of this genus in Africa, but also recorded in a guano habitat for the first time. Other species from this genus are found in Europe, Asia,
Australia, New-Zealand, South America and North America (22 species in total). Over the next few years this project aims to continue to build on, but also extend the
working relationship between researchers at Stellenbosch University and to integrate with other Collembola researchers.
This project is done in collaboration with Prof. Steven Chown (C·I·B, Stellenbosch University), Prof.Bettine Jansen van Vuuren (University
of Johannesburg) , Dr. Louis Deharveng and Dr. Anne Bedos (Natural History Museum, Paris, France), and is also linked to other bilateral projects with Prof. Jan Bengtsson
(Swedish Agricultural University), and Prof. Hans Petter Leinaas (University of Oslo, Norway). For further details about these projects see
Read the papers:
Janion, C., DíHaese, C. and Deharveng, L. (2012) A new species and first record of the genus Triacanthella Schaffer, 1897 (Collembola, Hypogastruridae) for Africa. Zookeys 163, 57-68.
Janion, C., Bedos, A, Bengtsson, J., Deharveng, L., Jansen van Vuuren, B., Leinaas, Liu, A., Malmström, A., Porco, D., and Chown, S.L. (2011) Springtails diversity in South Africa. South African Journal of Science, 107, Article #582.
Interesting websites about Collembola:
For more information contact: firstname.lastname@example.org.