The Agraeciini or spine-headed katydids, cousins to the grasshopper, is an insect tribe in the subfamily Conocephalinae. Although there are 16 known genera of Agraeciini present in the Philippines and at least 29 species already described in the country, insect taxonomists consider that there are still more species awaiting discovery.

“These katydids are difficult to find because they are nocturnal and mostly canopy-dwelling,” Dr. Sheryl Yap, curator at the UPLB Museum of Natural History said in an interview. “So, it was fortunate that after several night surveys and opportunistic collections in the country as well as examining Agraeciini museum collections, we were able to add more species to the country’s list,” Dr. Yap added.

In an article published in Zootaxa [4462 (3): 331–348], museum researchers from Singapore, Germany, France and the Philippines which included Dr. Yap and Jessica Baroga-Barbecho of the University of the Philippines Los Baños reported the discovery of three novel spine-headed katydids from Luzon and Mindanao.

According to their report, Anthracites furvuseques sp. nov. was found in a coastal vegetation on the island of Siargao in Mindanao last April 2018. Its name refers to the Dark Knight, which in Latin mean furvus and eques, respectively. The authors explained that the new katydid was named after the fictional character Batman because of the “species' black coloration that resembles the vigilante’s dark suit and the titillators which bear semblance of Batman's mask and logo."

Additionally, Salomona lumadae sp. nov, was also found among coastal vegetation in Siargao. The name was dedicated to the lumads, an indigenous people from Southern Philippines. Another new species, Axylus mabinii sp. nov., was described from UPLB Laguna Land Grant here in Luzon. It was named after the Sublime Paralytic, Filipino hero Apolinario Mabini.

The researchers have also elevated Salomona brevicollis Stål, 1877 as a species distinct from S. maculifrons using specimens of the latter from the UPLB Museum of Natural History. S. brevicollis was treated as S. maculifrons starting in 1959 based on studies of the highly regarded grasshopper expert C. Willemse.

“Recent developments have made it possible to better understand the species boundaries of the Agraecinii,” National University of Singapore researcher Ming Kai Tan relayed via email. “With new tools, were able to determine that there are genuine species differences, for example, the color pattern between S. brevicollis and S. maculifrons,” he added.

The discovery of these new species helps fill in evolutionary data gaps of the Agraecinii. Notwithstanding the eventual use of molecular data, the increasing species of Agraecinii will help resolve taxonomic problems in these kinds of insects.

For detailed information, the article can be accessed at https://doi.org/10.11646/zootaxa.4462.3.2


Images courtesy of the researchers, Zootaxa and Magnolia Press.


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