tikiRyan Photographic - Talitridae - Land and beach hoppers


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Family Talitridae

The family Talitridae currently includes around 435 species in 55 genera. They are colloquially known as sand hoppers, beach hoppers, landhoppers or even lawn shrimp, depending upon where they live. All terrestrial landhoppers belong to this family. They appear to have evolved in Gondwana and this is reflected by the number of species recorded in this region. Landhoppers were not found in North America or Europe until they were accidentally introduced.

Landhoppers may be an important component of terrestrial ecosystems, particularly rain forests. As most of them feed on dead vegetation they are important in recycling nutrients in these systems. Unlike insects, amphipods lack a waxy cuticle and, as a result, rapidly lose or gain moisture.

Beach hoppers, also known as sand hoppers, or sand fleas, typically live in sand just above the high tide mark and emerge from burrows at night to forage on organic material brought in by the tide. They may be particularly abundant under kelp.

Whether they live terrestrially or in the intertidal, all talitrids are excellent jumpers and use their powerful last two pairs of pereopods for this. Several of the sources I accessed for some of this information claimed that they jump by bending their tail under them and forcefully extending it (in view of the fact they don't possess a tail this would be difficult). Another reference claimed they couldn't control the direction of the jump (which, as far as I know isn't true).

There is an excellent discussion of the landhoppers available here. I was fortunate to attend university with the senior author (and drink a lot of beer with him ...)


New Zealand talitrid species

New Zealand talitrid amphipod

New Zealand talitrid amphipod from Wellington

Fijian beach hopper

Fijian beach hopper, Kadavu

Fijian beach hopper, Kadavu





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