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Various small 'hoppers' on the river bank

 
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MarkSturtevant



Joined: 21 Nov 2015
Posts: 784
Location: Michigan, U.S.A.

PostPosted: Tue Jan 21, 2020 8:21 am    Post subject: Various small 'hoppers' on the river bank Reply with quote

All of these are small and well camouflaged jumping insects, and most were found in the same location along a local river bank.

First up are so-called pygmy grasshoppers, which are odd little grasshoppers that grow to about a cm long as adults (!). A distinctive feature of grasshoppers in this group is the pronotum (the plate the normally covers the front segment of the thorax), as it is greatly extended to cover most of the body. The front wings are vestigial, and you can see them just above the middle legs. I currently think that ALL of the pygmy grasshoppers shown here are Tetrix arenosa. Color patterns in pygmy grasshoppers are rather variable, so identifying them can be challenging.
Pygmy grasshopper by Mark Sturtevant, on Flickr
Pygmy grasshopper by Mark Sturtevant, on Flickr

I include here a much older picture of pygmy grasshoppers, mainly because I found it amusing. I was photographing the female (the larger one) when I noticed a small 'dirt clod' creeping up on her. This was a male. He would repeatedly jump onto her, only to be quickly kicked off. Here he had once again succeeded in mounting the female, only something seems wrong...
Mating (?!) pygmy grasshoppers by Mark Sturtevant, on Flickr

The next pictures are of another Orthopteran that is common along rivers. This cute little thing is a pygmy mole cricket (Ellipes minuta). Pygmy mole crickets are a taxonomic surprise since they are no longer considered true crickets, let alone 'mole' crickets. Instead, they are currently classified with grasshoppers (!) because of the length of their antennae, the form of the ovipositor, and I don't know what else. There were dozens of these little insects hopping around the grass near a local river, and at first I thought they were plant hoppers until I looked more closely. A feature that I would like to see are their hind tibia, since they will have distinctly widened spurs on them. The spurs are described as being used to help them hop on water.
Pygmy mole cricket by Mark Sturtevant, on Flickr
Pygmy mole cricket by Mark Sturtevant, on Flickr

Finally, the odd insect shown in the picture below is 'toad bug'. Toad bugs are predatory Hemipterans, and like the grasshoppers shown above they can jump. This species is the big-eyed toad bug (Gelastocoris rotundatus)
big-eyed toad bug by Mark Sturtevant, on Flickr.
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Faust3D



Joined: 04 Aug 2013
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PostPosted: Tue Jan 21, 2020 6:56 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

I really like how mole cricket came out.

When I was a kid I used to watch large european mole crickets fight with these metallic looking ground beetles, fascinating stuff.
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rjlittlefield
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Joined: 01 Aug 2006
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PostPosted: Tue Jan 21, 2020 7:28 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Really nice images of fascinating creatures!

Especially in the pygmy mole crickets, I am struck by the huge areas of smooth brown structure around the big joints of the hind legs. But I cannot quite make out the anatomy. Are those brown areas sliding parts of the joints?

--Rik
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MarkSturtevant



Joined: 21 Nov 2015
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Location: Michigan, U.S.A.

PostPosted: Tue Jan 21, 2020 9:07 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

rjlittlefield wrote:
Really nice images of fascinating creatures!

Especially in the pygmy mole crickets, I am struck by the huge areas of smooth brown structure around the big joints of the hind legs. But I cannot quite make out the anatomy. Are those brown areas sliding parts of the joints?

--Rik

The form of their knees is probably not that different from other grasshoppers or crickets, but they are proportionally large. Pygmy mole crickets are good jumpers.
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Troels



Joined: 15 Feb 2016
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PostPosted: Wed Jan 22, 2020 7:15 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Interesting! Thanks for sharing.
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hayath



Joined: 03 Apr 2012
Posts: 161
Location: Bangalore, India

PostPosted: Wed Jan 22, 2020 8:27 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Fantastic set! Great texture and color on these.. Amazing how well these blend in
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rjlittlefield
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Joined: 01 Aug 2006
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PostPosted: Wed Jan 22, 2020 9:04 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

rjlittlefield wrote:
I am struck by the huge areas of smooth brown structure around the big joints of the hind legs. But I cannot quite make out the anatomy. Are those brown areas sliding parts of the joints?

I think I tracked down a good description of the brown areas. They are springs, not sliding parts. Their job is to store energy from a relatively slow contraction of the muscles, so that it can be released quickly to accomplish the jump.

There's an explanation with animated illustrations at https://www.st-andrews.ac.uk/~wjh/jumping/jumprout.htm and preceding pages. Their analogy is slowly drawing a bow to store energy, then releasing it to send the arrow flying quickly.

The animations are in Flash so I had to grant special permission to see them in Firefox. I have no idea how to do that in other browsers.

--Rik
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MarkSturtevant



Joined: 21 Nov 2015
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PostPosted: Wed Jan 22, 2020 10:35 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

That is way cool. I certainly did not know that. So this little grasshopper (and it hardly looks like a grasshopper) possibly has some extra big 'springs' in its knobby knees. I am keeping that link!
Thank you!
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