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Overview

Distribution

Geographic Range

Grasshoppers are found on all continents except Antarctica. There are over 10,000 species of grasshoppers known, about 50 of which are found in Michigan.

Biogeographic Regions: nearctic (Native ); palearctic (Native ); oriental (Native ); ethiopian (Native ); neotropical (Native ); australian (Native ); oceanic islands (Native )

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Physical Description

Morphology

Physical Description

Grasshoppers are medium to large insects. Adult length is 1 to 7 cm, depending on the species. Like their relatives the katydids and crickets, they have chewing mouthparts, two pairs of wings, one narrow and tough, the other wide and flexible, and long hind legs for jumping. They are different from these groups in having short antennae that don't reach very far back on their bodies.

Grasshoppers usually have large eyes, and are colored to blend into their environment, usually a combination of brown, gray or green. In some species the males have bright colors on their wings that they use to attract females. A few species eat toxic plants, and keep the toxins in their bodies for protection. They are brightly colored to warn predators that they taste bad.

Female grasshoppers are larger than the males, and have sharp points at the end of their abdomen that they to help lay eggs underground. Male grasshoppers sometimes have special structures on their wings that they can rub their hind legs on or rub together to make sounds.

Range length: 1.0 to 7.0 cm.

Other Physical Features: ectothermic ; bilateral symmetry

Sexual Dimorphism: female larger; male more colorful

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Ecology

Habitat

Most grasshoppers prefer dry open habitats with lots of grass and other low plants, though some species live in forests or jungles. Many of the grassland species invade farmer's fields too.

Habitat Regions: temperate ; tropical ; terrestrial

Terrestrial Biomes: desert or dune ; chaparral ; forest ; rainforest ; scrub forest

Wetlands: marsh

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Trophic Strategy

Food Habits

Grasshoppers are herbivores, they eat plants. They mostly eat leaves, but also flowers, stems and seeds. Sometimes they also scavenge dead Insecta for extra protein.

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Associations

Ecosystem Roles

Grasshoppers can be important herbivores. There are sometimes so many, eating so much, that they change the richness and abundance of plant species where they live.

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Predation

Grasshoppers jump or fly away, and then hide if they can. Some species eat toxic plants and keep the toxins in their bodies to discourage predators.

Known Predators:

  • Carabidae (eat eggs)
  • Hymenoptera
  • Formicidae
  • praying mantids
  • Araneae (any kind that is big enough)
  • Acari (eat eggs, parasites on adults)
  • Chilopoda
  • Anura
  • Anura
  • Squamata
  • Squamata
  • Aves
  • small mammals especially Soricidae 

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Animal / parasite / endoparasite
larva of Mermis nigrescens endoparasitises body cavity of Acrididae

Animal / parasitoid
larva of Sarcophila latifrons is parasitoid of Acrididae
Remarks: Other: uncertain

Animal / predator
larva of Stomorhina lunata is predator of egg pod of Acrididae
Other: sole host/prey

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Life History and Behavior

Behavior

Communication and Perception

Grasshoppers mainly use sound and sight to communicate, though like animals, scent and touch are important during mating. In some species males vibrate their wings or rub their wings with their legs to make sounds that attract females.

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Life Cycle

Development

Grasshoppers all hatch from eggs, and as they grow they go through incomplete metamorphosis. This means that each stage looks a lot like the adult, but adds a few changes each time the young grasshopper sheds its skin. Grasshoppers usually shed 5 or 6 times. After the last time, they are adults and can reproduce. Most species also get wings when they are adults.

Development - Life Cycle: metamorphosis

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Life Expectancy

Lifespan/Longevity

Most grasshoppers can only survive the winter as an egg; the adults all die when it gets cold. In warm climates which don't have freezing winters, grasshoppers can probably live longer, maybe for several years. Most die long before that though, from disease or predators or drought.

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Reproduction

After mating, each female produces a clutch of eggs in her abdomen, usually 8-25 eggs. When they are ready, she pushes her abdomen down in the ground and makes a layer of foam. Then she lays the eggs. When the foam dries it forms a tough and waterproof eggpod, and protects the eggs until they hatch. They hatchlings climb up through the foam and out into the world. If they have enough food, and live long enough, each female can produce several egg pods before she dies.

Breeding season: Spring or summer

Range eggs per season: 10.0 to 200.0.

Average eggs per season: 50.0.

Range gestation period: 25.0 (high) weeks.

Range age at sexual or reproductive maturity (female): 8.0 to 50.0 weeks.

Range age at sexual or reproductive maturity (male): 8.0 to 50.0 weeks.

Key Reproductive Features: semelparous ; iteroparous ; seasonal breeding ; parthenogenic ; sexual ; fertilization (Internal ); oviparous ; sperm-storing

Females try to choose a good place to lay their eggs, but that's the only care they give. They do not take care of their babies.

Parental Investment: no parental involvement

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Evolution and Systematics

Functional Adaptations

Functional adaptation

Stretchy membrane aids oviposition: locust
 

The intersegmental membranes of a pregnant female locust helps her deposit her eggs about 8 centimeters underground due to stress-softening of the membrane.

   
  "While a stretchy nuchal ligament can act as a shock absorber, a stretchy tendon would undo the shortening of the muscle that it attaches to a bone. The current record holder, the intersegmental membrane of the pregnant female locust, achieved its renown in an investigation by Vincent (1975); it's made of about 12 percent protein and 12 percent chitin, with the rest water, and it undergoes something called 'stress-softening.' Mother locust, a creature of dry habitats, stretches these membranes between her abdominal segments to get her eggs about 8 centimeters underground--deep enough so the desiccated eggs have a reliable source of water. The eggs are kept fairly dry before being expelled, presumably so the locust can hold a large number and still fly." (Vogel 2003:314)
  Learn more about this functional adaptation.
  • Steven Vogel. 2003. Comparative Biomechanics: Life's Physical World. Princeton: Princeton University Press. 580 p.
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Molecular Biology and Genetics

Molecular Biology

Statistics of barcoding coverage

Barcode of Life Data Systems (BOLD) Stats
                                        
Specimen Records:6,634Public Records:2,039
Specimens with Sequences:5,780Public Species:386
Specimens with Barcodes:5,327Public BINs:252
Species:577         
Species With Barcodes:497         
          
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Barcode data

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Locations of barcode samples

Collection Sites: world map showing specimen collection locations for Acrididae

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Conservation

Conservation Status

No grasshoppers are known to be endangered.

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Relevance to Humans and Ecosystems

Benefits

Economic Importance for Humans: Negative

Some grasshopper species are important pests of agriculture. They eat the plants that farmers grow in their fields. This is not usually a big problem in North America, but it has been in the past, and is still a major problem in Africa and Asia.

Negative Impacts: crop pest

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Economic Importance for Humans: Positive

Grasshoppers are an important food for other animals. Some species eat weed plants that are bad for cattle and horses.

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Wikipedia

Acrididae

The Acrididae are the predominant family of grasshoppers, comprising some 10,000 of the 11,000 species of the entire suborder Caelifera. The Acrididae are best known because all locusts (swarming grasshoppers) are of the Acrididae. The subfamily Oedipodinae is sometimes classified as a distinct family Oedipodidae in the superfamily Acridoidea. Acrididae grasshoppers are characterized by relatively short and stout antennae, and tympana on the side of the first abdominal segment.

The name Acrididae is derived from Greek akris, meaning locust.[1]

Subfamilies and selected genera[edit]

Adult female (left) and male Oxya yezoensis (Oxyinae: Oxyini)
hooded grasshopper (Teratodus monticollis)

References[edit]


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