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by Frans Janssens
Department of Biology, University of Antwerp, Antwerp, B-2020, Belgium
Department of Animal Histology and Embryology, Silesian University, Bankowa 9, 40-007 Katowice, Poland
Keywords: Collembola, culturing
Adams & Salmon (1972:271) used plaster of Paris/charcoal screw top
one third filled with a mixture of nine parts of plaster of Paris and one part
of charcoal, kept moist with a little distilled water.
Adams & Salmon (1972:274) pointed out that the food must be supplied in a
The food was moistened with a drop of water each day.
The following soil bacteria:
Xanthomonas sp., and
and soil yeasts:
Cryptococcus albidus and
were cultured on nutrient agar
and applied as food.
Al-Safadi (1988:334) kept specimens on the upper surface of white filter paper
in small covered glass dishes, 4 cm in diameter x 3.5 cm in depth.
The dishes had a substratum of plaster of Paris of about 1 cm and were kept at
room temperature, 20°C, and at relative humidity of about 100%
(maintained by moistening the plaster of Paris and by addition of drops of
water as required).
The specimens can survive on yeast, wheat germ, decayed matter and suspended
organic matter (Al-Safadi, 1988:336,338).
Similar results were recorded by Christiansen (1964) for
some species of Isotomidae, Onychiuridae and Hypogastruridae
Fig.Pm3. Adult Proisotoma minuta
feeding on a bakers yeast pellet
Specimen from Belgium.
2007.12.15 © Janssens, F.
Fig.Pm2. Egg cluster of Proisotoma minuta.
Hatching juvenile at arrow.
Specimens from Belgium.
2007.12.10 © Janssens, F.
Fig.Pm1. Proisotoma minuta
culture container (8x5x3 cm lxwxh).
Specimens from Belgium.
2007.12.15 © Janssens, F.
Specimens of Proisotoma minuta, collected from extractions of soil
samples from Belgium, near Leuven, 2007.11.12, were kept in culture at room
temperature, in a small transparant plastic container (8x5x3 cm lxwxh).
The substrate is made of some pieces of charcoal that were kept moist with hard
tap water (to compensate for the acid charcoal).
Sparcely, dry bakers yeast pellets were served as food.
Dave McLay (2005.01.21:in litt.), University of Washington, USA,
uses a 2 liter plastic shoebox
half filled with moist coco-fiber.
Then a small amount of bakers yeast is mixed throughout the culture and
some springtails are added.
Then a paper towel is placed on top. Wait a week stored at 65 °F.
In that short amount of time the cultures are loaded with adults and offspring.
A bit of yeast is added every week and the culture will do well.
See also Reader, N. (1994).
See Reader, N. (1994).
See Draney, M.L. (2000).
To prepare the culture of
Tetrodontophora bielanensis one should catch females after fertilization,
that is in Poland in November,
and put them into the fridge for the oviposition.
Hatching occures after 4 months (thus during March). Hatched juveniles are
put in petri dishes and reared in the fridge with agarose.
Aitchison (1986:237) devised a method for keeping Collembola in test tubes
on agar inoculated with fungi.
Test tubes of 200 x 20 mm were filled to a third full with liquid potato dextrose
agar, plugged with cotton, sterilised in an autoclave and left to cool and
harden with the agar slanted.
Then the agar was inoculated with a fungus from the family Dematiaceae and left
to grow over the agar at room temperature for one week, after which a few
animals were introduced.
The tubes were kept in a sealed plastic container with a cotton plug in a small
vial of water, maintaining a constant high relative humidity.
Whenever water droplets began to form on the fungal mycelia and collembolans, the
animals were transferred to a fresh tube.
Every 2 months the animals were transferred to a fresh tube by tapping them free
of the old substrate.
Experiences with the pH of the plaster of Paris/charcoal mix
Chamberlain (2004:in litt.) has in his laboratory cultures of
Protaphorura armata and
all of which apart from Ballistura filifera have been in
culture for many years. But he had very little luck with getting new
species from the field and culturing them in the lab, despite repeated
When the last attempt failed, it was decided to go back to first
principles and work out what the problem might be.
It is known that the pH of the plaster of Paris/charcoal
mix on which Collembola are cultured is important, but as the lab colonies
had no problem with the plaster bases provided, the pH was never checked before.
The plaster bases were
checked multiple times with both a pH metre and pH paper, and the
results were the same: 2.7!
The pH of the plaster of Paris and charcoal
have been checked separately, and they are both ca. pH 2-3.
It is not just the added
charcoal that is making the pH so low - it is both plaster and charcoal.
To counteract these extremely acidic conditions, sufficient
calcium carbonate was added to get the pH up to 5. Since then
some new individuals from the field were collected,
and after a few weeks they still seem
much happier on the new bases (laying more eggs, eating
more, not trying to climb up the sides of the plastic tubs as much).
We would like to thank Drs Paul Chamberlain and Dave McLay for their