Common Sand Hopper – Talitrus saltator
The Common Sand Hopper is a species in the order of the Amphipoda and thus belongs to the Subphylum of the crustaceans. Talitrus saltator was first described by Montagu in 1808.
Description, Anatomy & Characteristics
The Common Sand Hopper has an elongated body. Its colour is milky white, although greyish, brownish and greenish areas are also normal. It may also have brown or blue dots.
Talitrus saltator has no back shell, making the individual breast segments visible. While the first pair of antennas is very short, the second pair is even longer. This is especially the case with males. In addition, the long antenna pair ends in several small, rough and toothed links. The main part of the body has seven pairs of sternums, most of which are walking legs. The second of these pairs has claw-like end links. At the abdomen of the Common Sand Hopper there are three swimming legs as well as three pairs of jumping legs.
A black pair of eyes is particularly prominent.
Talitrus saltator reaches a size of 25mm. The male animals are slightly larger than the female ones.
Habitat & Distribution
The Common Sand Hopper lives in and on sandy ground or hidden under flotsam. It is always above the flood line. It can dig several decimetres deep into the sandy bottom.
When scuba diving on the Canary Islands you don’t actually see Talitrus saltator, because it lives on or in the beach.
The Common Sand Hopper has a large distribution area in Europe. It can be found on the coasts of the Mediterranean Sea, the Atlantic and its side seas such as the North Sea. It can be found as far as Norway and also in the Azores.
Biology & Feeding
Talitrus saltator is mainly nocturnal. During the day it remains hidden in damp sand or under flotsam.
When night falls, the Common Sand Hopper go foraging in large groups. They feed on stranded algae and other animal and plant remains.
With its jumping legs it can jump over 30 centimetres. On solid sand they move almost exclusively like this.
Furthermore, they are able to dig several decimetres deep into the sandy soil for a single hibernation or during spring tides.
Reproduction & Age
In Talitrus saltator, the time of reproduction is associated with the moulting of the female. The Common Sand Hoppers form pairs and reproduce shortly after the females shed themselves. The main time of reproduction is in summer, from May to August. The females carry the fertilized eggs with them until they hatch. The young animals grow up in autumn, but do not mate before next summer.
While the females live to be about 18 months old, males reach an age of about 21 months and die after the females.