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Monday, September 14, 2009

Grasshopper molt, take 1

I was sitting on the front porch in the late afternoon heat in the not-too-distant past fantasizing about how great it will be in a short few months and the garden isn't so blasted dry when I noticed an odd shaped green thing hanging among the gomphrena decumbens foliage. As you can see this gomphrena, a perennial which in my garden grows arching wiry stems to about 4 feet long topped with tiny purple gomphrenas, is clothed in yellow-green leaves almost a perfect match for the color of this grasshopper that I had been lucky enough to spot just as it started molting. It really was the odd shape and movement that caught my eye.

So here is yet another grey bird grasshopper, Schistocerca nitens, molting its way through life. This one has lost its left hind leg sometime along the line; you can see the stump of the missing limb in the later photos. A grasshopper will undergo autotomy (gr. self severing) when it is attacked by a predator, sacrificing a limb so the organism sans membre can continue on in life, hopefully as far as reproduction. Otherwise of course the autotomy will have been pointless.

Based on the size of this grasshopper's wing pads it is either a 4th or 5th instar, one or two more molts away from being a reproductive adult. The photo of the finished product after fully molting and curing of the exoskeleton was taken early the next morning; the grasshopper had moved from the site of the molting but it's not out of the gomphrena yet.

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