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Grasshopper legs

Grasshopper Calliptamus barbarus f. marginella (Costa, O.G., 1836) Galicia, Spain
Grasshopper Calliptamus barbarus f. marginella (Costa, O.G., 1836) Galicia, Spain

I came across this grasshopper at a site I have blogged about before, called Punta Corveira. This beautiful headland is located on the north coast of Galicia – between Cedeira and Valdoviño – in Galicia, Spain. In spring and summer it is covered with wild flowers, and one can see many interesting birds, including red-billed chough, peregrine falcon, blue rock thrush, raven and many more.

Punta Corveira – between Cedeira and Valdoviño – Galicia, Spain
Punta Corveira – between Cedeira and Valdoviño – Galicia, Spain

In flight, these grasshoppers are quite distinctive on account of their red wings. But at rest, with wings folded, they are perfectly camouflaged against the dry vegetation. Another feature that is not apparent in this photograph is the colour on the inside of their legs! One might ask why is this important? Well there are apparently two different forms (or bio forms) which are differentiated by the colour of the inner side of the hind femora (1). In one form, the inner side of the hind leg is a ruby colour (and has three black spots); the other form, has pale orange inside legs (with only one large black spot). The two forms also make different mating sounds (songs?) by grinding their mandibles together (1). The orthopteran equivalent of grinding their teeth together?!

I found it difficult to identify this species at first. It did not appear to be like any European species I could find, e.g on the excellent site ‘Orthoptera and their ecology’ (2). This was because the species has a very wide distribution, from the Mediterranean to Siberia, and there are different forms or subspecies, as already mentioned. I eventually found some images online – what would we do with out Google images? – which indicated that it was Calliptamus barbarus f. marginella (3). A form which differs significantly, at least superficially, from other images of this species (2). There is clearly more to find out about this particular form and whether the individuals found at this site in northern Spain have red or orange inner legs. I will gently prise them apart the next time and go there, assuming I can find another one!

  1. Larrosa, Esther, et al. “Sound production in Calliptamus barbarus Costa 1836 (Orthoptera: Acrididae: Catantopinae).” Annales de la Société Entomologique de France. Vol. 44. No. 2. Taylor & Francis Group, 2008.
  2. http://www.pyrgus.de/Calliptamus_barbarus_en.html
  3. http://www.actaplantarum.org/acta/faunagallery1.php?id=127

rcannon992 View All

I am a retired entomologist with a background in quarantine pests and invasive invertebrates. I studied zoology at Imperial College (University of London) and did a PhD on the population dynamics of a cereal aphid (Metopolophium dirhodum) in the UK. I spent 5 years with the British Antarctic Survey studing cold hardiness of Antarctic invertebates and 17 years with the Food and Environment Research Agency. My main interests now are natural history, photography, painting and bird watching.

3 thoughts on “Grasshopper legs Leave a comment

  1. very interesting Ray and intrigued about their form of vocalisation. I spend quite a lot of time watching orthoptera. They are a wonderful group. Clearly on their way to full species, if their mate selection mechanisms differ, i would have thought. Thank you.

    • Thanks Mark. I must look for these grasshoppers again when I go back to Galicia next year and try and get some better photos with my close up lens. The papar is available on open access (http://www.tandfonline.com/doi/pdf/10.1080/00379271.2008.10697549) but you can’t hear the vocalisations. It’s hard not to anthropomorphie when reading this paper: The male courtship song “is 369 ± 12 ms in length, and is composed
      of 1-4 syllables separated by silences of 127 ± 8 ms”; the female interaction song (or reply) “is usually composed of a single syllable”! But is it yes or no!

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