Sand hopper

Sand hopper ©Dorset Wildlife Trust

Sand hopper

Scientific name: Talitrus saltator
Sand Hoppers really live up to their name, jumping high into the air when disturbed.

Species information

Statistics

Length: up to 2cm Average Lifespan: 18 months

Conservation status

Common

When to see

January to December

About

Sand hoppers are a type of crustacean. They are pretty small and spend the daytime buried in the sand at depths of 10-30cm or hidden in strandline debris. They emerge at night to feed on decaying seaweed and other detritus. Adults spend the winter in a dormant state, buried in the damp sand at depths of up to 50 cm above the spring tide mark.
They are an important food source for shore birds. Sand Hoppers are sometimes referred to as Sand Fleas. This refers only to their jumping abilities - don't confuse them with the bitey sand fly, Sand Hoppers don't bite people.

How to identify

If you turn over rocks or seaweed you will often see them jumping out of the way. Sand hoppers are greyish-cream in colour with one antenna noticeably thicker than the other.

Distribution

Found on sandy beaches all around the UK.

Did you know?

Sand hoppers are well known for their amazing jumping abilities - they do this by tucking their tail under their body and quickly flicking it out, hurtling them high into the air!

How people can help

Take part in a beach clean to remove strandline litter by hand. This has a much lower impact than mechanical beach cleaning. If organising a beach clean, encourage participants to leave natural debris on the beach - including decaying/dry seaweed. It is an important part of the ecosystem! If possible, remove the litter from the seaweed (we know it's tough when it's all tangled up!) and leave the seaweed on the beach. The Wildlife Trusts are working with sea users, scientists, politicians and local people towards a vision of 'Living Seas', where marine wildlife thrives. Do your bit for our Living Seas by supporting your local Wildlife Trust or checking out our Action Pages.