A “Giant” Pygmy

Not long ago, I got an email from grasshopper expert David J. Ferguson confirming my identification of  (and also encouraging my recent fascination with band-winged grasshoppers (family Acrididae, subfamily Oedepodinae) and their marvelously cryptic nymphs).  He suggested that I might also find the “toad lubbers” (family Romaleidae) and pygmy grasshoppers (family Tetrigidae) interesting, since they too have many of those qualities I was finding attractive in band-winged nymphs, only on a very small scale.  It was a prescient comment, as I’d already started taking notice of the pygmies and even photographed one before ever getting his email.

Tettigidea lateralis | Shaw Nature Reserve, Missouri.

I take this individual to represent Tettigidea lateralis (black-sided pygmy grasshopper), which I saw at Shaw Nature Reserve during my May search for .  Actually, I’m not sure I would have even noticed this individual, as I walked along the trail going from open woodland through dry dolomite glade, had it not actually been sitting on my net rim.  I haven’t studied pygmies all that much, other than to note that they seem common around streams and other wet areas and are usually quite small.  This one, however, at close to 15mm in length seemed positively gigantic!  I placed it on the barren dolomite along the trail, expecting it to flee immediately.  Instead it just sat there—begging me to photograph it, so I did.

Bold, white femoral markings contrast nicely with its otherwise marvelously cryptic coloration.

This one appears to be a female with a short pronotum, but I can’t tell if it is an adult with short wings or still a nymph (it was certainly large enough to be an adult!).  Either way, I’m interested in the function of the bright white femoral marking on what is otherwise a very cryptically colored individual.

Copyright © Ted C. MacRae 2011

About Ted C. MacRae

Ted C. MacRae is a research entomologist by vocation and beetle taxonomist by avocation. Areas of expertise in the latter include worldwide jewel beetles (Buprestidae) and North American longhorned beetles (Cerambycidae). More recent work has focused on North American tiger beetles (Cicindelidae) and their distribution, ecology, and conservation.
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10 Responses to A “Giant” Pygmy

  1. Very nice, Ted. Plus an identification!

    I’m planning to go out to Kickapoo State Park to photograph later this morning. It’s the location where I had opportunity to photograph an unexpected association between snails and tetrigids (http://thingsbiological.wordpress.com/2010/05/22/phoretic-snails/). Maybe I’ll see it again this year… Happy fourth!

  2. Patrick Coin says:

    I’m guessing the white band is disruptive of the hopper’s outline. Looking at BugGuide images, I see that some others in that family have a band like that, such as Tettigidea armata and Tetrix ornata. Tetrix arenosa has a variable white blotch on the pronotum. This is a neat group; I hope your expertise can help us amateurs!

    • I think you’re probably right. The interesting thing is that this is a highly variable species, with all manner of light forms, dark forms, mottled forms, bi-colored forms, etc. Fuel for evolution!

  3. biobabbler says:

    Nice. Great shots! I remember learning about another oxymoron: the pygmy mammoth. They allegedly occurred on San Miguel Island in the Channel Islands, in California. Love oxymorons. I had a frog do the same thing, yesterday. Rescued it from the chickens’ water tower, and it kicked LOTS while I held it (tree frog, so totally within my cupped hands), then got it to a nicer place, put my hand down on the ground, and she just sat there. I’m thinking maybe after that COLD, long bath, she liked the 98.6 F of me. =)

  4. Zach says:

    Hi Ted, great pic, I printed this one out so my 8 year old could see the craziness of mother nature.


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