Mud Crickets, Ripipterygidae, are small Orthopterans (members of the group which includes Crickets, Grasshoppers and Katydids) found throughout Central and South America. They are noted for their preference for wet environments, such as riverbanks and moist gallery forests, and for their ability to jump from the surface of water. They are not well studied as a group, due to their small size (less than 15 mm), dark colouration (black, dark brown or occasionally dark metallic blue) and fast moving active lifestyle, which makes them difficult to capture or observe.
In a paper published in the journal ZooKeys on 5 May 2015, Nathalie Baena-Bejarano of the Illinois Natural History Survey and Department of Entomology at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign and the Instituto de Ciencias Naturales at the Universidad Nacional de Colombia and Sam Heads, also of the Illinois Natural History Survey describe three new species of Mud Crickets from Colombia. All are placed in the genus Ripipteryx.
The first new species is named Ripipteryx diegoi, in honour of Nathalie Baena-Bejarano’s father Diego Baena. The species is described from three male and three female specimens, all collected at Cabaña Cedros in the Parque Nacional Natural Cueva de los Guácharos. The males are 7.9-8.3 mm in length including the wings, which project behind the body in smaller individuals, or 7.6-8.3 mm in length excluding the wings, the females are 7.9-8.6 mm including their wings or 7.2-8.6 mm without. Both sexes are black in colour, with some white markings.
Ripipteryx diegoi, male specimen in lateral view. Scale Bar is 2.3 mm. Baena-Bejarano & Heads (2015).
The second new species is named Ripipteryx guacharoensis, meaning ‘from Guácharos’; the species is described from two male and one female specimens collected at Cabaña Cedros in the Parque Nacional Natural Cueva de los Guácharos. The first male specimen is 7.55 mm in length including the wings, the second is 8.9 mm including the wings or 7.2 mm excluding the wings, the female is 8.5 mm including the wings or 7.4 mm without the wings. All are black with white and yellowish markings.
Ripipteryx guacharoensis, male specimen in lateral view. Scale Bar is 2.2 mm. Baena-Bejarano & Heads (2015).
The third new species is named Ripipteryx gorgonaensis, meaning ‘from Gorgona’; the species is described from seven male specimens, six collected at Alto el Mirador in the Parque Nacional Natural Gorgona and one at Sendero cerro Trinidad, also in the Parque Nacional Natural Gorgona. These range from 6.56 mm to 7.74 mm in length including the wings or from 5.11 mm to 7.48 mm without the wings and are black in colour with white markings. A number of Soft-bodied Mites were found on some of the specimens; these are presumed to be ectoparasites, but have yet to be identified.
Ripipteryx gorgonaensis, male specimen in lateral view. Scale Bar is 1.44 mm. Baena-Bejarano & Heads (2015).
The genus Ripipteryx has been divided into five groupings based upon the structure of the male genera since the 1960s. The first two newly described species fit within this classification scheme, however Ripipteryx gorgonaensis has a genital structure intermediate between groups, adding to evidence that these groupings are not natural and do not reflect true relationships within the group. Nathalie Baena-Bejarano is currently working on a revision of this taxonomic system.
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