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Newly-Identified Grasshopper Species Has Sword-Like Head

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Scientists in India have described a new genus and species of unicorn pygmy grasshopper from Tamil Nadu, one of the southern Indian states.

Dravidacris annamalaica: (a) dorsal view, (b) lateral view, (c) dorsal view of the horn and head, (d) frontal view of horn and head, (e) lateral view of horn and head. Image credit: H Sankararaman.

Pygmy grasshoppers are members of Tetrigidae, an ancient family in the order Orthoptera.

These insects are typically less than 2 cm (0.8 inches) in length and are recognizable by a long pronotum, a plate-like structure that covers all or part of the thorax of some insects.

“Pygmy grasshoppers are unique among other orthopterans with their extended pronotum, which covers the wings and is functionally similar to tegmina in other groups, and the presence of genicular and antigenicular teeth in the adult phase,” said Dr. Dhaneesh Bhaskar, a researcher with Trier University, the SIGTET-Special Interest Group Tetrigidae and Care Earth Trust, and colleagues.

“They are small and are specific to the humid microhabitats hence are among the least explored groups.”

“Among the seven subfamilies, one of the most taxonomically problematic is Metrodorinae, with more than 500 species under 89 genera worldwide.”

“As in the case of many other orthopteran families, pygmy grasshoppers are also least explored in the Indian subcontinent,” they noted.

“Much like other tropical regions around the world, India is rich with peculiar pygmy grasshoppers with their various body shapes such as wingless, winged, slender, robust, spiky, smooth, and leaf-like species.”

“Among the not-well studied pygmy grasshoppers of India, especially Metrodorinae lack systematic research.”

The newly-discovered species belongs to Cleostratini, a tribe in the Metrodorinae subfamily.

It is so different from known pygmy grasshoppers it earned its own genus, Dravidacris.

Scientifically named Dravidacris annamalaica, it has an unique sword-like head, a slender body and long hind wings.

It occurs only on the eastern coast of Tamil Nadu, one of the southern states of India.

“The specimen of Dravidacris annamalaica was collected from a garden-land, semi-urban forest with a sandy surface in the Annamalai Nagar, Chidambaram, Tamil Nadu,” the authors said.

“The vegetation mainly constituted tropical dry evergreen forest along the east coast of Tamil Nadu.”

The discovery of Dravidacris annamalaica is described in a paper published in the journal Zootaxa.

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Dhaneesh Bhaskar et al. 2022. Dravidacris annamalaica gen. et sp. nov. a new pygmy unicorn grasshopper (Orthoptera: Tetrigidae) from South India. Zootaxa 5196 (3): 420-432; doi: 10.11646/zootaxa.5196.3.6

Source : Breaking Science News

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