New species of grasshopper-like insect discovered in Belize

Saturday, February 11th, 2012

10 February 2012
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

Contact: Sam W. Heads
Tel: (217) 244 -9448
E-mail: swheads@illinois.edu

NEW SPECIES OF GRASSHOPPER-LIKE INSECT IS FIRST MEMBER OF ITS FAMILY FROM BELIZE

The Tiny Insect from the Toledo District is Named in Honour of the Mopan People

Scientists at the University of Illinois, USA have discovered a new species of tiny, grasshopper-like insect in the tropical rainforests of the Toledo District in southern Belize. Dr. Sam Heads and Dr. Steve Taylor co-authored a paper published today in the journal ZooKeys documenting the discovery and naming the new species Ripipteryx mopana, a name devised by Heads and Taylor to honour the Mopan people.

“Belize is famous for its biodiversity, but very little is known about the insects of the southern part of the country and this is particularly true of the Orthoptera” said entomologist and lead author on the paper, Sam Heads. The Orthoptera are the order of insects that include the familiar grasshoppers, crickets and their relatives. “Ripipteryx mopana is the first representative of it’s family ever to be found in Belize” said Dr. Heads.

“Given the amount of high quality habitat in Belize, it isn’t really surprising that new insect species still await discovery, especially in the less well-explored areas” said Heads.

At just less than 5 mm long, Ripipteryx mopana is a tiny, black, white and orange coloured, grasshopper-like insect with oversized hind legs which it uses to jump away from predators.

“Very little is known about the biology of Ripipteryx and its closest relatives” said Heads, who specializes in the study of orthopteran insects. “The group as a whole is rather poorly studied and even though we continue to document new species, we still have a long way to go” he said.

Link to the ZooKeys website:
http://www.pensoft.net/journals/zookeys/issue/169/

Link to PDF version of paper describing Ripipteryx mopana:
http://www.pensoft.net/J_FILES/1/articles/2531/2531-G-3-layout.pdf

A high-resolution photograph of Ripipteryx mopana is available on request from Dr. Sam Heads.

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For more information, or to schedule and interview, please contact Dr. Sam Heads
Phone: (217) 244-9448 | E-mail: swheads@illinois.edu

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