No new posts lately because my computer recently came down with a spontaneous and catastrophic case of fail. I managed to salvage most of my files, but I am still trying to get settled into the new computer and replace various important missing programs, like Word and Photoshop and all programs. Luckily, I am a graduate student, so I have tons of free time and spare cash to dedicate to this task. (Only one of three statements in that last sentence was true.)
For this month’s Taxonomy Fail, and in honor of Halloween, we have a pretty awesome BBC clip on velvet worms. I’ve seen this Life in the Undergrowth video about a million times* because we show it to the 201 students and I highly recommend it. First enjoy the video, then see if you can spot the fail:
(You may need to click over to Youtube to get the video to load properly.)
…Did you catch it? “This cricket has huge eyes, but it’s difficult to see what’s going on around it.”
At 1:03 (Grasshopper):
Who are you calling a cricket?
At 1:26 (Cricket/Katydid):
I feel like a brand new bug.
*Where 1 million = 9.
Here’s another Taxonomy Fail for your edification and/or entertainment. I’m not sure who first mislabeled (or at least, mis-described) this image, but it pulls up on a number of blogs and sites with the erroneous story attached.
“Mantis Cannibalism Eating Mate”
…she’s eating a grasshopper. They *are* bother orthopteroids, but I don’t think it counts.
via Web Ecoist: Three Mate-Eating Animals
A crested grasshopper (Xyleus sp.) in a flooded clover field along the Paraná river.
Happy St. Patrick’s Day! (And happy birthday to my brother, Eric.)
The grasshopper above is a member of the lubber family Romaleidae, genus Xyleus, a crested grasshopper. We encountered a number of these large fellows doing field work in Argentina last year. While we were there, frequent rains caused flooding in most of our field sites along the Paraná river. This made working with fire ants difficult. In one notable instance we returned to a line of sugar baits the following day and found tadpoles swimming around them. Not optimal for a fire ant foraging study. We also got to observe lots of insects coping with (and flourishing in) the flooded conditions, as in the case of the grasshopper pictured feeding half underwater below.
Thanks to Paul Lenhart for photos, IDs, and being awesome!
Rhammatocerus sp. grasshopper feeding in a flooded field along the Paraná.
An aposematic lubber grasshopper from Argentina (Romaleidae)
Some of my favorite Argentinian insects were these large, colorful lubber grasshoppers. They were certainly striking, and easy to spot with the aposematic coloration they use to warn predators that they are poisonous. Lubber grasshoppers belong to the orthopteran family Romaleidae, so named from Greek “romaleos” meaning “strong of body” in reference to their generally large size. The term “lubber” may also be in reference to the old English use of the word to mean “clumsy” and “stout.” Many lubber grasshoppers also have shortened wings, especially in the females, as we’ve seen previously, and are poor fliers and slow hoppers due to their heavy bodies. In the case of this lubber grasshopper, any slowness or clumsiness due to body size is compensated by toxic chemicals that make them distasteful to potential predators.
An aposematic lubber grasshopper in Argentina (Zoniopoda inheringi).
Katydid nymph on a leaf.
Katydids are a member of the order Orthoptera (grasshoppers, katydids, crickets, etc.) and the family Tettigoniidae. Orthopteran nymphs, or immatures can be distinguished from adults by the development of their wings. Only adult insects have completely developed wings (think butterflies, beetles, and flies). Immature insects have not yet developed wings (think caterpillars, grubs, and maggots). Katydids, like other orthopterans, have incomplete metamorphosis, meaning they lack a pupal stage (think chrysalis or cocoons). Instead, the immatures generally resemble the adults in appearance, and partially developed stubby wings, called wing pads, may be present in some of the later molts. The nymph above is very young, and has no wings or wing pads present.
Here’s a picture from my own backyard in Texas!
A tiny katydid perches on a leaf.
Katydids are also called ‘long-horned grasshoppers’ in reference to their long antennae. Orthopterans of the suborder Ensifera, or ‘sword-bearing’, generally have antennae longer than their body length as well as exserted ovipositors (sword-like egg-laying tubes that allow females to saw their eggs into plants or insert them down into the fround.) Thus, katydids (like crickets) can be distinguished from grasshoppers by their long slender antennae and legs.
Below, you can see a grasshopper nymph, from the suborder Caelifera. This grasshopper is a member of the family Acrididae, the ‘short-horned grasshoppers.’
A grasshopper nymph perched on a fingertip.