A project undertaken at the Federation University Australia, and supervised by Dr Penelope Greenslade
The Collembola, (common name Springtails), are a common and abundant group of mainly soil and leaf litter inhabiting invertebrates. They are considered an important decomposer group as they contribute positively to fertility in facilitating mineral availability to plants through their feeding activities on microorganisms. Springtails occur almost everywhere from Polar Regions to the tropics and from marine littoral habitats to mountain tops including caves and agricultural, urban and domestic environments. There are currently nearly 400 species described from Australia; 20% are introduced exotics but most other species, even genera, are endemic to Australia. There is an estimated total fauna of over 1500 species so over two thirds are undescribed. Because of the economic and conservation importance of the group, it is important that they become better known with a greater proportion of described species.
Springtails are minute, most only a millimetre or less long, so to describe them they must be chemically cleared and mounted in a suitable medium on glass slides. To progress Australian taxonomic publications it is necessary to include good quality photographs and, for Collembola, phase contrast illumination must be used. Computer enhanced line drawings, scanning electron micrographs and high-resolution photographs using a variety of types of illuminations are all now de rigour. The current grant has enabled me to upgrade my equipment by providing a camera for high-resolution photographs under phase contrast illumination that was not available to me before. I can now use photographs in taxonomic publications, that will also provide accurate records of morphology to be used as a guide for pen and ink drawings also used in publications.
Since purchase, I have used the camera on three projects. Firstly, for photographing a loan from the South Australian Museum of Womersley’s Parajapyx swani (Japygidae) for sending to my collaborator in China. The photographs will also act as a digital record of this Australian endemic species. Secondly, for photographing specimens of Oudemansia species (Collembola) from the Great Barrier Reef for a revision of the genus I am writing with a French collaborator. Thirdly, for recording specimens of Furculanurida (Collembola), the subject of a paper describing two new species. This is the first record of this genus from Australia which is otherwise only known from Africa.