Page last updated at 23:29 GMT, Sunday, 6 September 2009 00:29 UK

Tiny creature in UK record first

By Steven McKenzie
Highlands and Islands reporter, BBC Scotland news website

Springtail. Image: Tim Ransom
Bourletiella viridescens was found among gravel and weathered heather

A tiny creature no bigger than 1mm in length found in the Scottish hills has been confirmed as the first recorded member of its species found in the UK.

The springtail Bourletiella viridescens was photographed in the Cairngorms by Tim Ransom.

Previously, it was reported in literature as having been found at two sites in north England, but there are no specimens to back this.

Experts have identified and confirmed the sighting.

Mr Ransom, an expert in photographing insects, found the springtail at an altitude of 880m on Creagan Dubh in the Cairngorms on 12 August.

Who knows what else is up there?
Craig Macadam
Buglife Scotland

It was in an area of gravel, boulders and weathered stalks of heather.

Invertebrates conservation charity Buglife Scotland said its identification was confirmed by Frans Janssens, who runs a website on the world's springtails - also known by entomologists as collembola.

Peter Shaw of London's Roehampton University, who runs the UK Collembola Recording Scheme, said it was the first confirmed sighting for the UK, Buglife Scotland added.

The charity's Craig Macadam said: "Quite an amazing find - who knows what else is up there?"

Springtails jump into the air in an uncontrolled manner when disturbed. The insects do this to escape predators.

Buglife said some recent studies of collembola suggested that they may be more closely related to crabs and shrimps than to insects.

Springtail. Image: Tim Ransom
The springtail is the latest record find in the Highlands

They can be found in large numbers in leaf litter, soil and rotting vegetation.

A smaller number of species live on the surface of freshwater and others on seashores.

In Britain there are about 300 species and worldwide about 2,000.

B. viridescens is the second record invertebrate find to be made in the Highlands this summer.

A dragonfly found laying eggs in a mountain pond set a UK record for the species.

Highland Council's biodiversity officer Jonathan Willet photographed the female common hawker at 830m on Tom a'Choinich, north of Loch Affric - the greatest height it has been found in the UK.

The previous highest recorded breeding was at 650m.

Mr Willet said the species - one of 18 dragonfly and damselfly found in the Highlands - favoured warm temperatures.

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