Amphipods

August 2011

I keep finding small, pink “flea-like” animals dead on the floor after rain.  What are they?

Answer

These small animals are called amphipods or land hoppers. They are very common throughout Australia. The most common species found in Brisbane is Talitroides topitotum.

Often after periods of rain, these small animals can be found covering carports, patios, in pet water bowls and even indoors. Although it might appear that they have fallen from the sky as “animal rain”, amphipods actually live in garden leaf litter.

Amphipods are often mistaken for large fleas; however they are not insects. They belong to the crustacean group along with crabs, prawns and barnacles. Most amphipod species are found in the sea, but a few species live on land and in freshwater. Land-dwelling amphipods feed on micro-organisms in the soil and also contribute to the decomposition of the forest floor.

A male amphipod will use his second claws (called gnathopods) to hold and guard the female until eggs are laid and fertilized.  The female then carries the eggs in a set of plates under her body (called a mersupium). When the juveniles hatch they undergo a few moults before she releases them to fend for themselves.

Although it can be inconvenient to clean them up every morning, amphipods are harmless to humans and animals.

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