Common names: Land hopper

Talitriator africana is talitrid land hopper, which occurs mainly in forest and transitional areas between forest and grassland. It is only known to occur from Port Elizabeth north and eastwards to KwaZulu-Natal (KZN), eSwatini and Mpumalanga, mainly along the coastal belt; it is abundant in the KZN region. Talitriator africana was originally described from Cape Town. This species’ distribution is strongly biased by a lack of data in other areas. Recently it was found in Limpopo Province. Land hoppers feed mainly on leaf litter. They have an average life span of eight months and have three to four generations per year

How to recognize a Land hopper

Talitriator africana only grows up to 15 mm in length. Females are usually larger than males. They have one relatively elongated antenna. The gnathopods (claws attached to second thoracic segments) are moderately lobed posteriorly and are about twice as long as wide. They also have slender pleopods (forked swimming limbs), which exhibit an elongated shape. To the human eye they may resemble miniature shrimp or prawn


Pic: C Griffiths

Distribution

Talitriator africana is reported for the first time in Limpopo Province. It was originally described from the Western Cape, and until recently, was only known to occur from Eastern Cape to KwaZulu-Natal (KZN), eSwatini and Mpumalanga.

Habitat & Food

Terrestrial amphipods live in forest litter and its interface with the soil, and they shelter under leaves and in fallen trees and other pieces of wood on the ground. Talitriator africana and many other terrestrial amphipods feed by breaking down organic matter (e.g. the leaf litter under trees).

THE BIG PICTURE

Talitriator africana is a most reliable indicator of a forest condition. It is proposed that the species could be a precursor for forest establishment.

Friends and Foes

There are no studies reporting the interaction between Talitriator africana and other amphipods, but in other parts of the world it is known that Talitroides alluaudi and Talitroides topitotum are potential competitors.

Smart Strategies

The species prefers disturbed areas, particularly forest edges. They are often found in high abundance at the ecotone, which that there is high decomposition rate at the boundary.

Poorer world without me

Land hoppers play an important role in the health of the environment. They are also known to be a good indicator of environmental health. This is because the terrestrial amphipods are highly susceptible to anthropogenic disturbance, with a marked decrease in numbers of individuals after fragmentation.

Pic: C Griffiths

People & I

There are no known reports of domestication or uses of the species as pets or for other purposes.

Conservation status and what the future holds

The major threat to Talitriator africana is habitat loss or invasive amphipods such as Talitroides alluaudi and Talitroides topitotum, which are known to have major impacts on native amphipods. There is currently no known special conservation action for the species.

Relatives

The Amphipoda family Talitridae contains 343 species, distributed within 79 genera. The genus Talitriator (Methuen, 1913) currently contains seven species occurring in South Africa: Talitriator africanus, T. calvus, T. cylindripes, T. eastwoodae, T. insularis, T. macronyx and T. setosus.

Official Common Name: Land hopper

Scientific classification
Kingdom: Animalia
Phylum: Arthropoda
Class: Malacostraca
Order: Amphipoda
Family: Talitridae
Genus: Talitriator
Species: T. africana (Spence Bate, 1862)

references and further reading

  • Bate, C.S. 1862. Catalogue of the specimens of amphipodous Crustacea in the collection of the British Museum. Taylor & Francis, London. 399 pp.
  • Griffiths, C.L. 1999. The terrestrial amphipods (Crustacea: Amphipoda) of South Africa. Annals of the South African Museum 105: 345–362.
  • https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Annals_of_the_South_African_Museum_-_Annale van die Suid-Afrikaanse Museum_(1997)_(18423448875).jpg
  • Matavelli, C, Uehara-Prado, M., Leite, F.P. & Freitas, A.V. 2009. Some aspects of the population ecology of the exotic amphipod, Talitroides topitotum, in an Atlantic Forest Reserve in Brazil. Crustaceana 2009;82 (2):241-251. Doi:10.1163/156854008X363777
  • Matavelli, C. & Uehara-Prado, M. 2014. High abundance of an exotic amphipod indicates disturbance in tropical rainforests. Ecological Indicators 41:75–78. Doi:10.1016/j. ecolind.2014.01.033
  • Methuen, P.A. 1913. Description of an Amphipod belonging to the Family Talitridae, from the Woodbush, Transvaal. Proceedings of the General Meetings for Scientific Business of the Zoological Society of London 83(1): 109–112, pl.: 10–11.
  • Moshobane, M.C. New record and range expansion of Talitriator africana (Crustacea: Amphipoda) (Spence Bate, 1862) in Limpopo Province, South Africa. (Unpublished)

Author: Mr Moleseng C Moshobane

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