Springtails perform a huge service ecologically by decomposing dead vegetation and other organic materials, converting it into fertile soil.
Springtails are eaten by a variety of small predators, such small flies, bugs, beetles, pseudoscorpions, small or immature spiders, larval fish, and more.
Fungi can ride on the outer skin of soil-dwelling springtails to new places. In this way, beneficial mycorrhizal fungi can reach tree roots that benefit from the fungi’s presence.
Springtails eat many fungi that can harm plants, helping to ward off fungal diseases of plants.
Springtails’ ability to detect polarized light might be an adaptation that helps them navigate, since it would help them know which direction sunbeams are streaming and reflecting off water. For aquatic springtails such as Podura aquatica, this can help them move toward their preferred environment. Researchers have found that water springtails indeed move toward horizontally polarized light. Several aquatic insects apparently have this ability, too.
The detachable scales that cover many springtails make them slippery — an attacking predator may end up only capturing a clump of scales as the springtail vaults away. A springtail regrows new scales when it molts.
Many springtail species are found globally, and it’s not hard to imagine how they could be transported around the world via shipping and material floating on ocean currents. Some species are so tiny they can ride on the wind like dust motes. They have been captured 9,000 feet high in the air.