Identification Keys

Provisional Key to the Collembola families of South Africa

Below is a provisional key to the Collembola families of South Africa. We are currently working on an illustrated version.

After Deharveng, 2004, modified.


* unpublished records for South Africa


Provisional Key to the Collembola families of South Africa

1.   Body segments well separated dorsally, at least from the second thoracic segment to the third abdominal segment ….. Arthropleona ….. 2

1’    Body divided in two parts: a large anterior massive part constituted by thoracic and abdominal segments more or less fused, and often a small posterior part (excepted in the genus Mackenziella) constituted by the abdominal segments V and VI, or VI ….. 22


2 (1).   First thoracic segment without chaetae in adult. Antennal segments III and IV always separated ….. 3

2’         First thoracic segment differentiated, with chaetae in adult ….. Poduromorpha (except Isotogastruridae) ….. 12


3 (2).   First antennal segment with seven chaetae. Often an uneven organ on the fourth abdominal tergite ….. Poduromorpha (Isotogastruridae)

3’         First antennal segment with more than seven chaetae. No uneven organ on the fourth abdominal tergite ….. Entomobryomorpha….. 4


4 (3′).   Trichobothria formula 1/0,0/0,1,3,1 or 0-1/0,0/0,2,3,2-3 from head to fourth abdominal tergite. Trichobothria ciliated. Generally abdominal tergite IV much longer than tergite III ….. Entomobryoidea … 5

4’         Trichobothria formula different. Trichobothria smooth, ciliated or absent. Abdominal tergite III and IV subequal ….. 8


5 (4).    Mucro absent. Trichobothrial formula 1/0,0/0,1,3,1 ….. Microfalculidae

5’         Mucro present. Trichobothrial formula 0-1/0,0/0,2,3,2-3 ….. 6


6 (5′).  Dens crenulated dorsally, distinctly tapering and curved distally ….. Entomobryidae

6’         Dens not crenulated dorsally, subcylindrical or feebly tapering and not curved distally ….. 7


7 (6’).  Dens short, with two rows of four to six large rounded scales, without spines. Neither pigment nor eyes ….. Cyphoderidae

7’         Dens of variable length, either with more scales, or without scales, often with spines. Pigment and eyes usually present, except in some cavernicolous species …. Paronellidae


8 (4′).  Presence of one or two trichobothria per side on thoracic tergites II and III. Mucro very long. Scales present on the body ….. 9

8’         No trichobothria on thorax. Mucro short ….. 11


9 (8). Antenna annulated. Spines present in the basal third of the dens (Fig. 20). Number of trichobothria per half-segment from head to fourth abdominal tergite: 0 / 1-2,1 / 0,0,1,2. OPA generally absent. Large size (more than 1 mm). Pigment and eyes usually present ….. Tomoceridae

9’         Antenna not annulated. Spines present in the distal part of the dens (Fig. 20). Less trichobothria. OPA present. Small size (generally less than 1 mm). Pigment and eyes absent ….. Oncopoduridae


10 (8’). Third abdominal tergite slightly shorter than the fourth, no scales on body ….. Isotomidae

10’       Third abdominal tergite longer than the fourth ….. Lepidophorellidae (with a single species in South Africa Neophorella dubia Womersley, 1934 devoid of scales, placed in Tomoceridae by Ireson & Greenslade 1990)


11 (2). Mandible with a molar plate ….. 12

11’       Mandible without molar plate, or absent ….. 14


12 (11). Pseudocelli present on the body (South African species) ….. 13

12’       No pseudocelli ….. Hypogastruridae


13 (12). Dorso apical organ of the third antennal segment protected by 4 or 5 integumentary papillae ….. Onychiuridae

13’       Dorso apical organ of the third antennal segment protected by 2 or 3 integumentary papillae or not protected ….. Tullbergiidae


14 (11′). Mandibles absent, maxilla head stout; but in Probrachystomellides nicolaii Weiner & Najt, 1991 the mandibles are present and the maxilla head is reduced to a stout claw without accessory lamellae ….. Brachystomellidae

14′       Mandibles present in all South African species, sometimes unilaterally in some Odontellidae; maxilla head different ….. 15


15 (14′). Cardo of the maxilla well developed ….. Neanuridae

15’       Cardo of the maxilla absent ….. Odontellidae


16 (1). Antennae longer than head, dens not subdivided ….. Symphypleona ….. 17

16′       Antennae shorter than head, dens subdivided in two parts ….. Neelipleona (with the single family Neelidae)


17 (16). Body elongated, dens with 3 chaetae ….. Mackenziellidae

17’       Body more or less globulose, dens with more chaetae ….. 18


18 (17′). Fourth antennal segment much shorter that the third one ….. Dicyrtomidae

18’       Fourth antennal segment equal to or longer than the third one ….. 19


19 (18′). Females with subanal appendages. Second and third antennal segments not modified in a prehensile organ in the male. No tibiotarsal organ on tibiotarsus III ….. 20

19’       Females without subanal appendages. Second and third antennal segments modified in a prehensile organ in the male. A tibiotarsal organ often present on tibiotarsus III ….. Sminthurididae


20 (19). 0 or 2 ocelli per side ….. Arrhopalitidae

20′       Six ocelli per side or more ….. 21


21 (20′). No triangular area with a cluster of straight spines on trochanter (trochanteral organ) ….. 22

21’       Trochanteral organ present. Three to six thin capitate tenent hairs on tibiotarsi ….. Katiannidae


22 (21). Two to four strong capitate tenent hairs lying along the claw on all tibiotarsi. One pretarsal chaeta only ….. Bourletiellidae

22’ No capitate tenent hair or rarely tenent hairs erected on tibiotarsi. Two pretarsal chaetae ….. Sminthuridae