ID Challenge #4 seems to have been a little more difficult than I anticipated – only a few people mustered the courage to even hazard a guess, of whom TGIQ emerged with maximum points to take the win. Looking sort of like a cross between a leafhopper (family Cicadellidae) and a treehopper (family Membracidae), Aetalion reticulatum is one of a few species and the only genus comprising the family Aetalionidae. While lacking the pronotal processes that characterize species in the much more diverse and better known Membracidae, aetalionids are nevertheless considered treehoppers as well, along with another little-known family Melizoderidae. As a whole, the Aetalionidae + Melizoderidae + Membracidae form a sister group to the Cicadellidae (Deitz and Dietrich 1993), which combine to form the most diverse and successful lineage of sap-sucking phytophagous insects.
Like many treehoppers, A. reticulatum exhibits ant-mutualistic and presocial behaviors; however, it remains unclear whether these behaviors were acquired separately by each treehopper lineage or if they represent retention of a more primitive condition (sorry, Alex – it’s just easier to say it that way than deal with terms such as ‘retained plesiomorphy’ and ‘phylogenetic conservatism’). Aetalion reticulatum occurs broadly in the New World tropics, where females can often be found perched on top of their egg masses. Some (but not all) guarding females make periodic sweeps of the hing legs down the sides of the egg mass, apparently to dislodge egg parasitoids and discourage further attack (Preston-Mafham & Preston-Mafham 1993). Ant-mutualistic relationships and the tendency to form colonies provide additional protection from predators.
Now is a good opportunity to summarize the ‘1st BitB Challenge Series’ overall standings – Ben Coulter maintains his overall lead by gaining points in every challenge. TGIQ climbs into 2nd place with this week’s win, and tceisele leap frogs over several contestants to tie Janet Creamer for the 3rd podium spot (and gets the nod for more frequent participation). It’s no real surprise that the most frequent players took the top spots. At this point, I’m going to call a close to the 1st series and declare Ben Coulter the overall series winner – contact me for your loot! To the rest, thanks for playing, and now that you know how this game works maybe you’ll think about making a move for the 2nd series win!
|Place||Commenter||IDC #1||SSC #3||IDC #2||IDC #3||IDC #4||Total|
|Delbert La Rue||7||–||–||–||–||7|
Deitz, L. L. and C. H. Dietrich. 1993. Superfamily Membracoidea (Homoptera: Auchenorrhyncha). I. Introduction and revised classification with new family-group taxa. Systematic Entomology 18(4):287–296.
Preston-Mafham, R. and K. Preston-Mafham. 1993. The Encyclopedia of Land Invertebrate Behaviour. The MIT Press, 320 pp.
Copyright © Ted C. MacRae 2011