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Leichhardt’s Grasshopper Scientific Classification
- Scientific Name
- Petasida ephippigera
Leichhardt’s Grasshopper Conservation Status
Leichhardt’s Grasshopper Locations
Leichhardt’s Grasshopper Facts
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One of the most colorful grasshoppers in nature, Leichhardt’s grasshoppers are the sole member of the genus Petasida. Named after the German explorer and naturalist Ludwig Leichhardt, Leichhardt’s grasshoppers are endemic to northern Australia. Their diet consists of a single species of native shrub containing bitter-tasting sugar compounds. When threatened, they can spew foul-tasting brown liquid that wards off prospective predators.
Leichhardt’s Grasshopper Facts
- Although the first Leichhardt’s grasshoppers were identified back in 1845, no sightings in the wild occurred between 1900 and 1971.
- Leichhardt’s grasshoppers feed only on one type of plant, the pityrodia, an evergreen shrub endemic to Australia.
- All Leichhardt’s grasshoppers live in a small range of the Kakadu and Keep River National Parks in northern Australia.
- When agitated, Leichhardt’s grasshoppers emit a brown, foul-tasting spew to discourage predators from eating them.
- Scientists suspect that Leichhardt’s grasshoppers developed their foul-tasting spew because their sole food source, pityrodia, contains bitter-tasting sugars.
Leichhardt’s Grasshopper Species, Types, and Scientific Name
They belong to the pyrgomorph grasshopper family Pyrgomorphidae. Its family name likely derives from the Greek word pyrgos, meaning tower, in reference to the form of the head common to many species in the family. They are the sole members of the genus Petasida, and their full scientific name is Petasida ephippigera. Meanwhile, they get their common name from Ludwin Leichhardt, a German explorer and naturalist who first identified the species in 1845. In the Kundjeyhmi language spoken by the aboriginal Bininj people of northern Australia, Leichhardt’s grasshoppers go by the name alyurr.
Appearance: How to Identify Leichhardt’s Grasshopper
Lecihhardt’s grasshoppers rank among the world’s most colorful and visually striking grasshoppers. They appear predominantly bright orange, with an orange face, legs, and abdomen. The rear and sides of the thorax look bright blue, while the abdomen features dark blue markings with a large dark blue mark near the rear. The face typically features two vertical dark blue stripes on each side, one directly below the eye and another pointing at an angle down and toward the thorax. Leichhardt’s grasshoppers have prominent antennae with alternating orange and blue stripes. Like other grasshoppers, they have wings and can fly, but they rarely use them. They average between 1 and 1.5 inches long, with the males measuring slightly smaller and thinner than the females.
Habitat: Where to Find Leichhardt’s Grasshopper
Leichhardt’s grasshoppers are endemic to Australia. In particular, they live only in the Northern Territory’s tropical forests, woodlands, and grasslands. Presently, scientists only know of a few small populations found in rugged, remote areas of several national parks in the region. These parks include Kakadu National Park, Nitmiluk National Park, and Keep River National Park. You’re most likely to encounter them during the tropical summer, although they are present in limited numbers year-round. Most Leichhardt’s grasshoppers will spend the majority of their lives on a single plant. They start out near the base as juveniles and move their way up the plant as they grow. You’re most likely to encounter them on pityrodia plants, their primary food source.
Diet: What Do Leichhardt’s Grasshoppers Eat?
The Leichhardt’s grasshopper eats a very specific diet. Its main and often sole source of food is the foliage of the plant Pityrodia. Pityrodia are flowering plants in the mint family Lamiaceae. Like Leichhardt’s grasshoppers, they grow only in Australia, particularly in the northern and western parts of the country. As juveniles, Leichhardt’s grasshoppers tend to spend most of their time near the bottom of the plant. As they grow, the grasshoppers often move further up the plant. Pityrodia plants contain novel amounts of bitter sugar compounds. Scientists suspect that these sugars form the basis of the foul-tasting brown liquid that Leichhardt’s grasshoppers spew when they become agitated.
Prevention: How to Get Rid of Leichhardt’s Grasshopper
Given that Leichhardt’s grasshoppers are endemic to Australia, you’re unlikely to find any in your backyard. Moreover, they are a rare species, and as such, you should avoid killing them if at all possible. In the event that you do find a Leichhardt’s grasshopper in the wild, your best course of action is to leave it alone. However, if you wish to get rid of them, you should endeavor to remove them carefully. Try trapping them in a glass and covering the lid with a slip of paper, taking extra care not to crush or damage their delicate legs or antennae. Once trapped, you can then release the grasshoppers into a safe place.
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Leichhardt’s Grasshopper FAQs (Frequently Asked Questions)
Are Leichhardt's grasshoppers dangerous?
Leichhardt’s grasshoppers are not dangerous, and also do not pose a risk to plants given their highly specific diet.
How many legs do Leichhardt's grasshoppers have?
Like all grasshoppers, Leichhardt’s grasshoppers have 6 legs.
How do you identify Leichhardt's grasshoppers?
Leichhardt’s grasshoppers are easily identifiable due to their bright orange and blue colors.
How do you get rid of Leichhardt's grasshoppers?
Generally speaking, you shouldn’t get rid of Leichhardt’s grasshoppers given that they are very rare and non-harmful to people or the environment.
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- , Available here: https://www.australiangeographic.com.au/blogs/creatura-blog/2014/01/leichhardts-grasshopper/
- , Available here: https://parksaustralia.gov.au/kakadu/discover/nature/animals/leichhardts-grasshopper/
- , Available here: https://thebigzoo.com/animals/leichhardts-grasshopper/
- , Available here: https://leichhardt.qm.qld.gov.au/The+Exhibition/Leichhardt+Remembered/Leichhardts+Grasshopper