21 May 2010

Matchstick Grasshopper - Morabinae sp.

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Matchstick Grasshopper - Morabinae sp.

Morabinae is a Subfamily of the Eumastacudae Family (also known as Monkey Grasshoppers), which according to several references claim to have around 200 species, although the Australian Faunal Directory states Morabinae has only 90. As the AFD also refers to Eumastacudae as a Superfamily, I am not sure what is going on here and assume it is something that only happens with invertebrates (tic). Anyway, whether one or two hundred species they all apparently look very similar to each other and are mainly separated by genitalia differences, so trying to place these grasshoppers into one of 41 genera let alone at species level is something I leave to experts.

The above Matchstick Grasshopper is around 2.5 cm (1”) in length and is beautifully camouflaged in its round sedge habitat, although many species and maybe this one too, will frequent and feed on shrubby vegetation. Currently I have found only two of these insects (both shown) in two places about a kilometre apart, but the vegetation was similar, so presume they would be reasonably widespread around Esperance in this common sedge habitat. However, from information read, Morabinae can be found Australia wide and sometimes occur in considerable numbers.

When first encountered, I was searching for Pyrgomorphinae and specifically Psednurini, which are very like these Matchstick Grasshoppers, but on closer inspection the antennae of the Morabinae are distinctly triangular and the head is not in line with the rest of the body, looking as if connected via a neck. The undersides are also quite different, but on general appearance are easily confused.

Morabinae are apparently nocturnal and it is said, they are then easier to find by sight, but being so well camouflaged I am not so sure, although a sweep net draws not such distinction and is probably the way to go if they are not plentiful. Also as they are wingless and not a distance hopper, a net would indicate a simple method of capture. Probably due to this lack of locomotion, Matchstick Grasshoppers in the Morabinae subfamily are thought to be endemic to Australia.

My thanks to Dr David Rentz for identification.