Springtails Do Their Own Stunts
Step right up to see tiny springtails spin through the air with the greatest of ease! In ponds and streams, they skyrocket out of the reach of hungry insects like water striders by slapping a tail-like appendage against the water. And you won’t believe how they stick the landing.
Now presenting: the springtail!
It jumps … right off the water!
Explosive! 150 times faster than a blink!
Here at the water’s edge, where these springtails live, it’s a tiny circus that never stops.
Sure, they can also walk … and glide.
But the spring in springtail is for escaping.
When you’re the size of a poppy seed, lots of things want to eat you. Like this young water strider.
Not today, kid!
Hey, hold my beer!
To power these lifesaving leaps, a springtail deploys … the furcula!
It just pushes down this lever and in two milliseconds it’s defying gravity.
It vaults up to what would be a sixth floor for you and me.
But what goes up must come down, and hopefully you land right side up … so you’re ready to dart off again when the water strider catches up. Yeah, water striders jump too.
So, how does the springtail stick that landing?
It all starts up in the air.
Scientists at Georgia Tech put springtails in a wind tunnel, blowing air up from below.
As they hover, they spin like wild trapeze artists.
By curving its body into a U shape, a springtail stops spinning and rights itself midair.
And see that little circle on its belly? That’s a teeny tiny drop of water clinging to a tube called the collophore.
That droplet makes all the difference.
It lowers the springtail’s center of gravity and stabilizes it. When it lands, the drop glues the springtail in place.
It’s really helpful during a bumpy landing.
It even works on dry land.
Without that drop, oh … ooh.
But most of the time they fly through the air with the greatest of ease, the daring young springtails on the flying trapeze.
Hi Deep Peeps. It’s Laura. You know what else jumps? The Mexican jumping bean. And do you know why? To find some shade. Each bean is home to a head-banging moth larva just making its way in the harsh desert sun.