Researchers in Japan have made an intriguing discovery, identifying four previously unknown species of insect-like organisms known as springtails. These creatures were unearthed residing within decomposed wood in various regions across the country. Among them, the most remarkable find is a petite, vibrant, six-eyed blue insect.
Springtails, classified as arthropods, belong to the same broad invertebrate group as arachnids, crustaceans, and insects. Although they were once considered insects, they are now acknowledged as a distinct lineage called collembola. While both insects and springtails share the feature of having six legs, springtails lack wings and possess internal mouthparts, in contrast to the external mouthparts commonly observed in insects, such as the pincer-like jaws found in ants. Their name originates from the fact that many species employ their tails as springboards, enabling them to jump considerable distances when threatened.
Typically, these creatures inhabit moist soil and play a vital role in their ecosystem. Many species feed on decaying organic matter from plants and fungi, accelerating the decomposition process. Others act as predators, helping control certain soil microorganisms. Although not harmful to humans, large populations of springtails can occasionally become bothersome to indoor plants.
Globally, thousands of springtail species have been identified, including more than 40 species within the genus Paranura. Thus far, only three Paranura species of springtails have been documented in Japan. However, the authors of this recent study, published in the journal Zootaxa earlier this month, report the discovery of additional members within this extensive family.
It appears that Paranura springtails have a particular affinity for decaying wood, as all these newfound species were located in fallen branches on the forest floors of various broadleaf tree forests throughout Japan. One of these remarkable discoveries is a vividly blue springtail, named Paranura tsushimaensis, after Tsushima Island in Nagasaki province, where it was found.
Like all springtails, P. tsushimaensis is incredibly diminutive, measuring a mere 0.06 to 0.07 inches in length. Its body is elongated and flattened, featuring two sets of three black eyes. The other species have been named P. nakamurai, P. alpicola, and P. convallis, with one species being dedicated to the collector of the specimens, Kahito Nakamura. These additional species exhibit a range of colors, spanning from white to orange.
Disclaimer: The views, suggestions, and opinions expressed here are the sole responsibility of the experts. No Atlas Story journalist was involved in the writing and production of this article.