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Snowflea Air Bags

12-23-13 snowflea IMG_0947Snowfleas are such remarkable little arthropods that they merit at least an annual post. The recent warm weather brought them up out of the leaf litter to the surface of the snow, where they constantly hurl themselves from one spot to another. If you don’t mind getting your knees wet, you can watch as snowfleas tuck their head down and catapult themselves through the air. Just before launching themselves, the snowflea everts three anal sacs from its anus. When the snowflea lands, these sticky appendages act like automobile air bags, absorbing the shock of landing as well as preventing the snowflea from bouncing around. There may be another function that they perform, but it is not known at this time what that might be. While there are many genera of snowfleas, only species in the genus Hypogastrura possess anal sacs.

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5 responses

  1. Very interesting and helpful. I just watched and photographed them the other day, wondering about their behavior.

    December 23, 2013 at 2:41 pm

  2. I noticed them as well. I usually associate them with late winter, but the weather was decidedly March-like the past few days. I guess that’ll end soon enough!

    December 24, 2013 at 12:28 am

  3. Marian Boudreault

    You are amazing…..

    December 24, 2013 at 4:10 am

  4. Rob Wallace

    That’s interesting. What we call snow fleas in the UK are a very different group of arthropods. They’re Boreus species (like wingless scorpion flies).

    December 26, 2013 at 8:27 pm

    • Interesting. Do you have anything called springtails?

      December 26, 2013 at 9:10 pm

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