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The Extraordinary Pink Katydid

Saturday, 26 May 2012

Flamingos aside, you do not get to see the color pink in the animal kingdom a great deal.  A notable exception is the pink katydid.  Yet this is by no means a separate species – this coloring affects around one in 500.  You may have already guessed that the condition is something similar to albinism.

Known as erythrism, the condition causes a curious reddish pigmentation. It can affect the body of an insect as well as its skin, and it is so rare that it was not noticed by western scientists until 1887. The reason for this oversight was perhaps due to the inclination of the insect to remain perfectly still during daylight hours.

You may also be wondering where this insect got its unusual name.  It sounds like a scientific designation but in fact it comes from the noise that the insect makes which forms a song of sorts - katy did katy did katy did.

There are literally thousands of species of katydids and many look like leaves or other shrubbery, some have even evolved to look like slime mold. Whether this is accident or design, however, the pink katydids do not stand out quite as much as you might expect. After all, there are plenty of pink flowers on the planet.

During the day the katydids stay very still – and because of their shape and color most predators don’t spot them. They are herbivores and so as plant eaters would much rather a quiet life than fight – they are at their happiest when the world around them is oblivious to their presence.

Yet in the evening the katydids undergo something of a behavioral transformation. They become active, feeding and singing, using their acute sense of smell to guide them to their food, rotten fruit being one of their favourites.

They have few enemies – bats being one of them.  Perhaps their most deadly foes, however, are the mantid species.  One species pretending to be a plant or flower predating another species doing exactly the same thing does make the mind boggle a little. Sometimes the stalking of dinner must last all day.

Just before you ask – yes pink katydids have been bred in captivity. However this is as rare an event as seeing one in the wild so don’t rush to your local pet shop as it is unlikely they have heard about them let alone have any in stock!

First Image Flickr User Praline3001

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