Portraits of Wildflowers

Perspectives on Nature Photography

A tiny find

with 13 comments

My first find along Bull Creek earlier this week was dozens of roughstem rosinweeds in bloom, one of which appeared in yesterday’s post. Another find, much less conspicuous and much less conventionally pretty, came from a part of the creek that still had water, though only enough to form a large puddle. I saw something gray, probably not even an inch long, hopping near the edge of the water. At first I took it to be one of the very tiny frogs we have here, but I was having trouble seeing it because, as I soon discovered, it has a natural camouflage that lets it blend in with the sand, pebbles, rocks, decaying leaves, and other odds and ends that litter the shoreline of the creek. When I got close with my macro lens I was surprised to see that the object of my interest wasn’t a frog at all. Make a guess if you will from the roughly life-size image below, then click to enlarge it and find out what the little creature was. If you guessed right before seeing the enlarged picture, please say so in a comment and we’ll all proclaim you a notable naturalist.

Update on August 23, 2011: thanks to Valerie Bugh for identifying this little creature as a pygmy grasshopper (also called a grouse locust) from the family Tetrigidae. She says it’s in the genus Paratettix, probably P. mexicanus. I knew about the existence of dwarf dandelions, but not till now about pygmy grasshoppers.

© 2011 Steven Schwartzman

Written by Steve Schwartzman

July 17, 2011 at 6:33 AM

13 Responses

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  1. What a cool creature!

    arianavincent

    July 17, 2011 at 7:40 AM

    • Yes, a cool creature for 100° weather. I don’t know that I’ve ever seen one that looks so much like it’s wearing military camouflage.

      Steve Schwartzman

      July 17, 2011 at 7:48 AM

  2. I was thinking maybe a praying mantis of some sort. I’ve seen some interesting ones in Mali – You can see what I mean by checking out this post: http://theunwittingtraveller.wordpress.com/2011/04/20/mali-field-camp-files-mantis-mania/… but I guess this is a cricket??

    Lu

    July 17, 2011 at 7:48 AM

    • I followed your link. I’ve never seen a mantis that looks like it has a target on its back. Maybe it’s supposed to resemble an eye, so that would-be predators would think from the size of the “eye” that a much larger animal is present. As for the little creature in my picture, I believe it’s a grasshopper of some sort: look at its large rear legs.

      Steve Schwartzman

      July 17, 2011 at 7:55 AM

  3. is it a leaf hopper insect?
    looks like a blend of lizard and bug.

    susie fowler

    July 17, 2011 at 8:52 AM

    • The best I can tell, Susie, it’s a tiny grasshopper. Your impression of a blend of lizard and insect is apt; this thing reminds me of a Texas horned lizard.

      Steve Schwartzman

      July 17, 2011 at 10:39 AM

  4. I showed the your photo to my (American) biologist friend. She thinks it could be Western Clouded Grasshopper (Encoptolophus costalis). I looked it up, but didn’t find too much except this description: http://www.uwyo.edu/grasshoppersupport/Html_pages/enco.htm
    The site describes a similar species too and has a field guide to grashoppers. It should help verify or correct my friend’s assessment.

    sanetes

    July 18, 2011 at 2:48 AM

    • Thanks for taking the time to try to get this grasshopper identified. I followed your lead and read the criteria for identifying the species your biologist friend mentioned (thanks to her, too). I wish I had a working knowledge of the technical terms of entomology, which are as complicated and specific as those of botany.

      I did an Internet search and found some images of Encoptolophus costalis on BugGuide that happen to be from my part of Texas. I couldn’t get a close match between my pictures and the ones posted there, because those didn’t have that greenish military camouflage look. Then at http://bugguide.net/node/view/461664/bgpage I found a picture of the species taken in north Texas that did have green mixed in with tan, so your American friend may well have hit it right. Thanks again for taking the time to research this.

      Steve Schwartzman

      July 18, 2011 at 6:41 AM

  5. […] The word came at a good time, because when I was at Bull Creek last week I discovered not only a tiny grasshopper that looked like it was wearing military camouflage, and not only dozens of roughstem rosinweed […]

  6. Such an interesting creature.

    TBM

    July 18, 2011 at 8:04 AM

  7. […] That was the same productive visit that led to pictures of a camouflaged insect, a roughstem rosinweed in full flower, and the exuviae of a […]

  8. […] Here’s one last picture from my wanderings on August 31, 2012. It was a hot summer day (to say hot and summer in Texas is to repeat yourself), and several kinds of grasshoppers kept jumping around. In retrospect this one strikes me—and a few of the ones bounding about did actually strike me—as the most attractive; I like the way the dark red stripes complement the patterned green of most of the grasshopper’s body and the green stalks of the broomweed, Amphiachyris dracunculoides, that it had landed on. (If you’d like a reminder of what broomweed’s small flower heads look like, you can get a close view in a post from last summer.) Although I often see grasshoppers, somehow this is only the second one to appear in these pages; the first was tiny and quite different, if you’d care to look back. […]


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