Monday, 26 April 2010

Life in the Leaf Litter

Forget about life in the undergrowth. Go down even further to the leaf litter and you'll find a whole world of living things all busy either recycling all that organic matter or else preying upon one another. I recently sifted through just a few handfuls of leaf litter. The photos below show a small sample of what it contained.

First up is a small larva which I assume belongs to the Diptera ( a fly maggot if you wish).

(Click images to enlarge)
Fly larva - just a few mm long.

Anyone who has picked up seaweed on the strand line has probably seen hoards of little jumping creatures know as Sandhoppers. Their cousins who inhabit forest leaf litter are sometimes called Landhoppers. The one in the photographs belong to the family Talitridae which are a type of amphipod crustacean.

Edit: I had erroneously named this landhopper Talitrus sp. until seeing Bob Mesibov's comments below. The paper referred to says all 15 Tasmanian landhoppers belong to the family Talitridae. Those which were once placed in Orchestia and Telitrus have long since been moved into new genera. Only one of Tasmanias landhoppers is also found on the mainland.

A Landhopper - family Talitridae
(possibly Keratroides vulgaris)

The most obvious creatures among the litter were the millipedes. Some of those below are only around 10 mm is length. I had a go at trying to ID some of them but for now have put them on my "To Do" list..

Millipede A

Millipede B

Millipede C

Millipede D

Millipede E

A small beetle of about 3 - 4 mm in length.

An intoduced slug - Deroceras sp, probably D. panormitanum
(See Kevin Bonham's comments below)

Aside from the above, there were numerous tiny spiders which I did not manage to photograph very well, the native snail which I posted recently, and countless other organisms too small for me to photograph.


  1. Please use the Tasmanian Multipedes website ( when you get to millipedes on your 'To Do' list.

    The landhopper from leaf litter isn't in Talitrus. Mainland Tasmanian landhoppers were sorted and described about 25 years ago by Tony Friend. His monograph can be downloaded from; search for 'amphipoda talitridae'. If you're in the NW, the most likely species you've photographed is Keratroides vulgaris.

  2. Thanks Bob - Yes I've often looked through your Tasmanian Multipede site. It's an excellent resource. I did try working out a few of my millipedes but got my self confused :-)

    Thanks too for the Amphipod link. The one in the photo is from Fern Glade so not to far from you.

  3. Making good use of the macro lens, Denis!

  4. Thanks George - Oops, sorry Tony ;-)

  5. I'd go Deroceras for the introduced slug. There's a good pic of Arion intermedius at - it is rather chunky with noticeable raised pustules towards the tail end (hence "hedgehog slug"), and the "saddle" bit tends to be close to the head.

    As to which Deroceras, not reticulatum but probably a pale D. panormitanum, which was called D. caruanae in Smith and Kershaw.

    The exotic slugs are a bit under-studied in Tassie and there are very likely more species here than were recorded in S+K. There are some European species pairs that look very similar to each other and dissection is needed to tell them apart for certain.

  6. Thanks Kevin one again! I did notice the lack of 'raised pustules ' but wrongly assumed that was because it was fully extended. S&K as trapped me again. I hope that new book eventuates.

  7. Hi Mosura - I really like your pictures in this post. I was wondering if you would mind if I used some (with attribution) on a poster about detritivore-fire interactions for the ESA conference?

  8. Hi Joshua - If you like those photos please feel free to use them.


    Alan Melville