Australian Orthopteroids's Journal

February 06, 2024

A quick Queensland Nanomantidae key

I made a quick key for some students and I figured it would be useful to post here too, so enjoy!

Posted on February 06, 2024 10:51 AM by matthew_connors matthew_connors | 1 comment | Leave a comment

November 30, 2023

New Mantis Alert!

Guess what everyone, I have wonderful news! As of today, I've just published my first new species - not one but TWO very cute little mantises, and one was discovered right here on iNat! You can check out the paper here.

If you know where to look, the Paperbark Mantis (Ima fusca) is one of the most common mantis species around Cairns. There can be numerous individuals in just a tiny patch of trees, and they often live right in suburbia. Despite this though, rarely anyone ever sees them! Why?? Well, it's quite simple really. Ima are small, cryptic, and they pretty much only live on paperbark trees (as the name suggests). So in general, you're unlikely to see one unless you're specifically looking for it.

Now this was actually quite the problem for me - part of my Honours project last year focused on these little mantises, with the aim of giving them a modern taxonomic treatment. But of course, a taxonomic revision is difficult if nobody collects any specimens for you! Luckily for me, male Ima do come to lights at night, so I still had plenty of specimens to work with, although of course the vast majority were males (that's okay though, because as we will see males are much more identifiable than females).

Because Ima aren't generally encountered much, it was actually quite difficult for me to work out where I needed to go to find them (especially before I started looking at any museum specimens). Have a look at the map of iNat sightings prior to mid-2019:

This little area around Cairns was the entirety of their known distribution to anyone who didn't have access to museum specimens. The holotype is from Cairns as well, so maybe this really was the only spot they were found. But of course, as we now know, they are much more widespread! My first indication of this actually came way back in 2018, when I photographed a juvenile Ima aaaall the way down south at White Mountains NP near Charters Towers. And then a few years later, @domf spotted some Ima up in Weipa! So far from a measly ~90km, the actual range of Ima extends well over 900km!

Since then we've been filling in a couple of the gaps here on iNat, and of course there are museum specimens from across this range. Here's what our current iNat map looks like:

Still lots of empty space with no records, but we can at least get a general idea of where they're found.

Now the key question that comes from all of these records is this: Are these all Ima fusca, or are there other species of Ima hiding in plain sight?? This was a key question that I worked on for quite a while last year. Initially, I suspected that there might be three different species - one in the north, one in the middle, and one in the south, or that perhaps the middle population was the same as one of the other two, and hence that there were two different species.

Here's @shesgotlegs's photo of the wonderful new Ima corymba:

The actual result was in fact quite a bit stranger than I was expecting! There were two different species, one in the north, and one in the south. But in the middle, both species were present! Around the Wet Tropics, both Ima fusca and the newly-named Ima corymbia are present and widespread. However, they always seem to occur in different habitats, and I am yet to find any one spot that has both species. Ima fusca prefers the wetter areas along the coast, and Ima corymbia prefers the drier inland areas. North of Cooktown, only Ima fusca is present, and south of Caitns it is only Ima corymbia (mostly).

This difference in distribution is really helpful, because unfortunately for us the two species simply cannot be identified from photographs. The only difference between them is the structure of the male genitalia! There are numerous insect species that can only be identified from genitalia, and unfortunately this is one of them. But no matter! They're super cool, even if we can only identify them to genus most of the time.

So Ima corymbia is one of our new mantis species, but what about the other one? Well, this second one is arguably even cooler, because it was discovered right here on iNat!

Let's welcome to the world the wonderful little Inimia nat, or I. nat for short. See what I did there? 😂 We have @reiasai97 to thank for that excellent pun! Here's an excellent photo of the holotype from Brendan James:

I. nat was first spotted here on iNat by @glendawalter in May last year. As soon as I saw it I knew that it was something unusual, and I initially thought that it was an odd species of Ima. After Glenda sent me some specimens, however, it became clear that this was something stranger - more like a cross between Ima and Calofulcinia. And our (as yet unpublished) genetic results do suggest that it is closer to Calofulcinia than Ima, so what that meant was that we had not just a new species but an entirely new genus!

For me, the most exciting part of this new discovery is that it shows just how fantastic iNaturalist can be as a tool for taxonomic research. From the day Glenda first posted I. nat on iNat, it took less than a month for the appropriate experts (i.e. me) to see it, realise it was something interesting, and receive some specimens to work with. The actual writing up and publishing part of course took a bit longer, but the speed with which this initial discovery and collection took place is just astonishing.

We now have a number of I. nat specimens to work with that will all be lodged in museum collections, including not just adult males and females but juveniles of both sexes and oothecae. So thanks to iNat, we now have almost the entire life cycle of this mantis documented. In fact, only a single specimen exists that wasn't collected with the help of citizen science - a very old male from Rockhampton that's in quite poor condition. It was labelled as Ima, and without iNat we may never have even known about the existence of this remarkable little mantis.

I feel like I'm probably preaching to the converted here, but the discovery of I. nat perfectly illustrates just why iNat is so great. From the perspective of the observer, how cool is it that you can just go outside and find a completely new species?? Here in Australia we just have so many undescribed species that it's actually really easy to find new ones - the problem instead is that it's hard to work out what's new and what's not unless you're an expert. iNat is a way to connect you with those experts who can tell you exactly what you've found.

And from the perspective of the researchers like myself, it's amazing to have thousands of pairs of eyes out looking for cool new species! Sure, in some groups it's hard to work out whether something is new or not from photos alone - just look at the case of Ima fusca and Ima corymbia above. But every now and then something unique will show up, like I. nat, and then it's as easy as pie.

That's the best part of iNat for me - it connects taxonomists (and other researchers) with the interested amateurs who can use and appreciate their research. Taxonomy is a bit of a dying art these days, but maybe this sort of thing is exactly what we need to kickstart a new taxonomic revolution!

And once more, you can read the full paper here (if you don't have access, message me and I'll send you a copy).

And I did another short writeup here if you want to have a read!

Posted on November 30, 2023 10:32 PM by matthew_connors matthew_connors | 6 comments | Leave a comment

October 15, 2023

What is going on with the Phaneropterinae??

You may have noticed that I've been going through all of the Australian katydid observations recently, trying to put better IDs on them and working out what we can and can't ID from photos. It's been really great to see just how many species we have here on iNat, including some that have probably never been photographed alive before.

Despite having 14 subfamilies in Australia, two subfamilies absolutely dominate the observations - Conocephalinae and Phaneropterinae. Out of all the katydid observations in Australia, about 25% are Conocephalinae (and 15% are just Conocephalus) and a staggering 55% are Phaneropterinae. So the remaining 12 subfamilies make up just 20% of our sightings.

Understandably, I left these two subfamilies until last, and I've just finished up with all the Conocephalinae (finally!). Unfortunately though, these two subfamilies are the most poorly-known in Australia. The 12 other subfamilies have been thoroughly reviewed in recent times by Rentz et al., and there has been some work done in the Conocephalinae at least. Of the five tribes, the Coniungopterini and Armadillagraeciini are well-known (only a few species anyway), the Copiphorini were revised by Bailey (1979), the Agraeciini have received a decent amount of recent work by Rentz et al., and the Conocephalini are still a bit of a mess but at least somewhat doable.

No such luck with the Phaneropterinae though unfortunately. The subfamily is a complete and utter mess, and I'm excited to reveal to you all that I am currently planning a PhD to resolve some of this mess! :D
For the meantime though it will remain incredibly messy. Not only are there numerous undescribed species, but most of the names that already exist cannot be reliably assigned to species. There are also a number of persistent misidentifications that have spread through the literature and out to places like iNat as well.

So in the near future, as I begin going through the phaneropterines, expect a few shakeups of some taxa you think you might know well. A lot of things will change, and I might go back and forth on a few things as I try to interpret old holotypes and short descriptions :P

Most of the time a detailed explanation of things just isn't going to be possible but I will try my best if it's not too complicated to explain. Otherwise I suggest directing people back to this post so that they understand what is happening!

I've been hard at work trying to figure out exactly which species have been recorded from Australia and where they're currently placed, and it's clear that there are a very great number of completely different issues. We have species recorded from Australia in error (e.g. Zulpha perlaria), genera present but not officially recorded from Australia (e.g. Agnapha), taxa recorded from Australia and then promptly forgotten (e.g. Phaneroptera brevis), incorrectly synonymised names (e.g. Torbia pruinosa), complexes of nearly identical species (e.g. Caedicia acutifolia), species placed in the wrong genus (e.g. Elephantodeta pinguis), persistent misidentifications of extremely common species (e.g. Polichne parvicauda), misidentifications of entire genera (e.g. Symmachis), overzealous identifications of supposedly common species (e.g. Caedicia simplex), and names that have been associated with Australian species through voodoo and black magic (e.g. Paracaedicia serrata).

Very few taxa will not be affected by these changes. Everything is just such a mess. At least Acripeza is exactly what we think it is. Hopefully.

So yes, as things change there will be a lot of observations to update and I just won't be able to explain the reasoning a lot of the time beyond a simple statement of "this is what the holotype is" or something like that. I'll try to explain where I can, but I think just directing people back to this post will be the most helpful option.

A number of species are actually species complexes with only one described species, so in these cases I'll be adding species complex taxa with only a single species in them, and trying to differentiate the species where I can. I'll also be making lots of annotations in observation fields to track species that may or may not be named, and once I'm done I'll add them all here and that should work for tracking purposes.

To start with I'll just be going through and taking out some easy species, and then sorting some of the remainders into broader groupings that I can tackle one at a time. So a number of sightings may go through several 'rounds' of more and more precise IDs. Or they might just get stuck at Phaneropterinae :/

Of particular note here is the genus Ephippitytha. Quite a large number of species have actually been described in the genus and yet we only really think of two of them. There is a good reason for this - E. kuranda is certainly distinct, but Rentz is of the opinion that most/all of the others are just local forms of E. trigintiduoguttata. I have not looked closely at specimens yet but for the most part I would agree with this assessment. However, the names are still valid for now and one or more may turn out to be actually distinct. So if I can, I will try to split these off from E. trigintiduoguttata. Does this mean that they are actually valid? No, and in all likelihood none of them will be valid. But it does mean we can accurately track the different morphs and see if there are some patterns. So I will do my best to work out which morphs these names actually refer to, and we can see where that leads us.

So... that's all for now. I shall see where this dive into the most complicated of the subfamilies takes me, and hopefully we will find some interesting results!

Posted on October 15, 2023 05:33 AM by matthew_connors matthew_connors | 5 comments | Leave a comment

September 27, 2023

A quick Conocephalus primer

Conocephalus is a terrible terrible genus with 40+ species that all look the same, and the majority of them are undescribed. You will not get an ID. That's the end of this post.





Okay, so not quite :P
We can definitely put some names on some of the species without difficulty, even though there are just so many undescribed species across Australia. We can roughly divide the species into an 'easy group' and a 'hard group', and in this post I'll give you a very quick overview of how to differentiate these species. I'll mostly stick to the described species but you can see some of the undescribed species here. Here are a couple of them:

We'll go through the described species more or less in order of 'ease of identification'.

Conocephalus tumultuosus is probably the easiest species to differentiate simply because of its colour scheme:

No other species has blue and orange as far as I'm aware. It's known from northern NT and does not appear to be common.

Conocephalus vaginatus should also be fairly easy to identify, or at least the group of species related to it should be. They are very elongate, slender katydids with long, straight ovipositors:

If you look closely you will see that this individual has very small wings. True C. vaginatus is completely wingless, but this undescribed species is closely related. They come in green or this pinkish brown. True C. vaginatus has been recorded from northern NT, whereas these undescribed species have also been recorded in inland Queensland.

Of the common species, the easiest to ID by far is Conocephalus semivittatus semivittatus. Males have extensive black on the surface of the abdomen and black stripes down the side of the abdomen:

Females have a brown dorsal surface to the abdomen with a black border of varying width. Sometimes it is very thin and almost nonexistent, and other times it is broad and extended downwards into stripes like in the male. This one has a decent amount of black:

C. s. semivittatus has a broad range from eastern Victoria up to SEQ. It's also found on Lord Howe Island and in New Zealand.

Although the short-winged form is much more common, a long-winged form is also known for both sexes. Abdomen colour is still probably the most useful way to distinguish it from other species, although that will be more difficult for females.

The northern 'subspecies', Conocephalus semivittatus vittatus, is broadly similar to C. s. semivittatus but there are several notable differences. I say 'subspecies' because in reality they are two different species, although they are certainly closely-related.

In the male, the abdomen has some brown on top, the black stripes are vague to absent, and there are usually a few white spots on the abdomen:

Females are even more distinctive - they are darker dorsally than their southern counterpart, and have an obvious row of white spots on each side of the abdomen:

Just as with C. s. semivittatus, long-winged forms exist but are much less common.

C. s. vittatus is found in FNQ in rainforest-adjacent areas including the Wet Tropics and Iron Range. It's also known from New Guinea and I think further afield as well.

C. bilineatus is another fairly easy-to-distinguish species, at least in females. The abdomen of both sexes is brown dorsally, and then this is bordered by a thin black stripe and a thicker pale stripe:

The overall body colour can be either brown or green. Males are similar in colour to females:

Long-winged forms of this species exist as well and they are harder to differentiate unfortunately. In the short-winged form though, the end of the male's tegmina are quite broadly rounded (this will be important later!).

Another very useful ID feature is the pronotum - almost always, the lateral lobe has a dark stripe and then immediately underneath this is a pale stripe. It's not always present, but no other species has both of these stripes.

C. bilineatus is found in southeastern Australia from the Eyre Peninsular up almost to the NSW-Qld border, although it seems to be quite rare in Sydney. Its range includes Tasmania where it is quite common. Outside Australia it is also found in New Zealand.

Now we start getting to the species that are a bit more difficult. Conocephalus redtenbacheri is distinctive but in a more subtle way. It has some obvious yellow patches on the sides of the abdomen and the posterior thorax:

These yellow patches vary a bit in intensity but are generally more extensive in the male, which also has some reddish areas on the dorsal surface of the abdomen:

C. redtenbacheri has a mesopterous form (the two pictured above) and a proper long-winged form, both of which seem to be about equally common.

Its known from coastal Queensland from the Wet Tropics down to near Mackay, and is also known from New Guinea and several Pacific Islands where there are also some lookalike species that are very difficult to separate.

Conocephalus maculatus is a very distinctive species once you see the difference between it and the other species, but if you don't know what you're looking for then it is very 'samey':

The key is the pattern on the wings - the costal region (the lowest section in the photo above) is completely patternless, and the region above this has a row of large black spots. Compare that with images of other macropterous species, which generally have the costal region darkened and no large spots anywhere on the wings.

C. maculatus is only known from long-winged forms, so these spots will always be clearly visible.

In Australia the species is known from north Queensland and northern NT, but it's very widespread outside of Australia and is known as far as Africa.

Conocephalus laetus is... an odd species. And it's mostly odd because it's hard to describe exactly how it's odd.

The stridulatory region is very large, the back of the pronotum is raised, and the colours are overall quite muted. Once you get a feel for Conocephalus you will start to notice that this species just 'feels' very odd though.

C. laetus is uncommon through the drier areas of northern Australia from WA to Qld. It's also widespread outside Australia and has similarly been recorded as far as Africa (supposedly).

Conocephalus willemsei is getting towards the harder end of the scale. It is fairly indistinctive, although the males have a significant amount of yellow on the abdomen:

Females are unfortunately very much less distinctive and I don't really have any good tips. The moderately long, straight ovipositor is useful at least:

C. willemsei is known from northern NT, and additionally in New Guinea.

Our final two described Australian Conocephalus are the problem children, the two most difficult to separate. Conocephalus albescens and Conocephalus upoluensis are both very common and are among our most-observed species.

Here are some individuals of C. albescens:

And here are some individuals of C. upoluensis:

So, what's the difference? Good question. Probably the most obvious and helpful thing is that C. albescens can be either long- or short-winged, whereas C. upoluensis is always long-winged. The short-winged males of C. albescens are quite similar to those of C. bilineatus, but C. albescens has the tegmina longer and distinctly more pointed, as compared with the tegmina of C. bilineatus which are shorter and much more truncately rounded.

Distribution is also very helpful. C. albescens is known in the southeast across a similar range to C. bilineatus, from the Eyre Peninsula all the way up to about Brisbane, including Tasmania. It's also found in New Zealand. C. upoluensis is incredibly widespread and is found over the entirety of Australia. It's probably our only species through most of central Australia and in the southwest. It does appear to be less common in Tasmania but everywhere else it is one of the most common species. It's also found on Norfolk Island, and additionally from New Guinea and through the Pacific (but not New Zealand, oddly enough).

So if you have a long-winged individual from where their ranges overlap, how do you tell them apart? Well, then it gets more difficult. I will list off some good features here, but sometimes it just won't be possible, especially with males. Nymphs are almost impossible for the most part, although subadult females can be identified.

  • In female C. albescens, the ovipositor is long and extends beyond the end of the wings. In female C. upoluensis, it is much shorter and does not reach the end of the wings. Often it is tucked away so that the end is not actually visible at all. So if you can see the end of the wings in a female, you should be able to tell them apart.
  • In male C. albescens, the cerci are very narrow distally and are often darkened. The tenth tergite (dorsal segment at the end of the abdomen) is also produced downwards on its posterior edge (sorry this is not as visible in the photo below). In male C. upoluensis, the cerci are not narrowed or darkened distally, and the tenth tergite is not produced downwards. Compare C. albescens on the left and C. upoluensis on the right:

  • In C. albescens, the legs are sometimes a different colour to the abdomen. In particular, often the legs are brown and the abdomen is greenish. In C. upoluensis, the legs and abdomen are always more or less the same colour.
  • In. C. albescens, the dorsal surface of the pronotum is always more than half brown, and it's almost always entirely brown. In C. upoluensis, the dorsal surface of the pronotum can be green or brown.

So there ends our quick little intro into the terrifying world of Conocephalus ID. As I said at the start, we have about 40 undescribed species across Australia, so there's a big job ahead to describe them all! At least the most common species are described. And like the last post, we can show them in a lovely little map that my computer struggles with. But hey, it looks nice!

And that's all done with Conocephalus.

Everything all wrapped up nicely.

No more species to look at.

Definitely not.

What's this, there's more???

Well we can't very well look at Conocephalus and not talk about everyone's favourite lookalike.

So, the question of the hour: how exactly do you tell Conocephalus from Conocephalomima?

Conocephalomima barameda is an odd katydid. It's in the subfamily Listroscelidinae, almost on the other side of the katydid family tree to Conocephalus, and yet it looks so incredibly similar to Conocephalus that it can be very difficult to tell the two apart unless you know what you're looking for. Why is it so similar?? I don't think anybody knows.

Anyway, how do we tell the difference then? There are numerous features, and the more you look at the two genera the more you will see that they are actually quite easy to differentiate.

Firstly, let's look at range - Conocephalomima is found only in the southeast of the country, from SEQ around the coast to western Victoria (but excluding Tasmania). Let's take a look at a female and compare her to the Conocephalus species above:

The most obvious difference should be the thick, curved, sickle-shaped ovipositor. No Australian Conocephalus has an ovipositor even approaching this, and it's by far the easiest difference to see. Of course, it's only visible on females but it's very visible and should become obvious even in thumbnails once you've looked at enough individuals.

The other differences are a bit more subtle but you start to get the hang of them. The tegmina are very narrow and don't narrow towards their ends (in fact the seem to slightly broaden), and importantly they're held well above the abdomen. In Conocephalus the wings are held quite close to the abdomen and it's rare that you would see the dorsal or even upper lateral portions of the abdomen.

The front and mid legs are proportionally rather more robust than in Conocephalus, and they have larger spines as well. The hind legs are also a bit longer, extending well past the end of the abdomen and almost to the end of the ovipositor.

The pronotal lobes are also rather shorter and do not completely cover the prothoracic holes, whereas in Conocephalus these holes should never be visible.

Barring the ovipositor, all of these features are present on males as well:

Males additionally have very different cerci to Conocephalus - they have no internal spine, and are instead strongly curved inwards and usually darkened as well.

Nymphs are similar to adults but of course lack wings:

And tiny babies are also quite distinctive:

But there's one feature I haven't mentioned yet, and it's the most important feature because it's easily visible on both sexes at all life stages. This one feature can always differentiate Conocephalomima from Conocephalus. It's got to do with the head!

So first of all, the head of Conocephalomima is much rounder and broader than that of Conocephalus, which tends to have quite a narrow and often pointed fastigium. But more importantly, have a look at the colour and the pattern. In both Conocephalomima and Conocephalus, the laterodorsal stripes on the pronotum extend onto the head. In Conocephalomima, these stripes diverge anteriorly and meet the eyes, where they stop, and the interior section between them becomes more green anteriorly until there are no brown markings at all. In Conocephalus, the stripes go between the eyes and meet up at the fastigium, and usually the interior section between them remains brown along the whole head. This is the most important differentiating feature, and luckily for us it's almost always visible because people tend to photograph the head end of most animals!

If you want to have a go at testing yourself on the difference between Conocephalus and Conocephalomima, have a scroll through the observations here and see if you can pick without looking at the names :P You'll get better the more you look at them until it will become easy peasy.

Anyway, that's about it for this post. No key or summary stats this time around because there are so many undescribed species and they're just a difficult group in general. And to be perfectly honest, the main point of this post is so that I don't forget everything I just spent the past few months learning!

Posted on September 27, 2023 08:00 AM by matthew_connors matthew_connors | 1 comment | Leave a comment

September 25, 2023

A guide to Australian Pseudophyllinae

The Pseudophyllinae are some of Australia's most recognisable and unique katydids, and luckily for us they are usually fairly easy to identify. We have a total of 19-23 species (read on!) split between three very different tribes - Phrictini, Phyllomimini, and Simoderini. They're known from all along the east coast from Iron Range south to Victoria, although they're mostly restricted to rainforest and adjacent habitats (except for the genus Narea). So, how do we ID them?? It's a good question, and one which I will hopefully try to answer here. Let's go through tribe by tribe and see what we can come up with!

First up is the Australian endemic tribe Phrictini with its sole genus Phricta. Anyone who has been to the rainforests of north Queensland should know P. spinosa well, but we have a total of four described and one undescribed species of Phricta. They're split between three different rainforest regions, each of which has two different species. We'll start in the north and make our way southwards.

In the Wet Tropics of Far North Queensland, we have two rather different species - P. spinosa and P. tortuwallina. P. spinosa is by far the most common species of the genus, and it is also the largest and probably the most distinctive. The most important features are the very short thorax spines that are only on the lateral margins (with small tubercles sometimes on hind margin as well), and the black and red patch on the inner surface of the hind femur. Have a look at these two shots:

Both features should be very obvious, but here's a closer look at the thorax spines so that you can make a comparision with the other species later:

Nymphs are similar to adults in most aspects (except wings) and will often sit splayed out on tree trunks like this (as will adults as well):

Very young nymphs don't look hugely like adults but they are still distinctive and there isn't much else like them. They don't have any large spines but the pattern is still similar:

As you can see, the black and red patch on the hind femur doesn't really develop properly until they have moulted a couple of times, which can make IDs difficult sometimes.

P. spinosa is very common across most of the Wet Tropics but it becomes less common as you get further south. It's known from the Daintree in the north down to about Paluma in the south, but there are only sporadic records south of Tully.

The other Wet Tropics species is P. tortuwallina, a very nice species with quite a restricted range. It's known from a few different localities on the Atherton Tablelands and is also quite common further north on Mount Lewis. It is significantly smaller than P. spinosa, it has very long thorax spines that often curve upwards and are present on the hind margin of the thorax as well as the lateral margins, and the inner surface of the hind femur has only a red patch without any black. It also often has more green tones than P. spinosa but that's not a particularly helpful feature until you've seen a lot of them. Here's a typical adult:

And here's a nymph showing the red patch:

Here's a better look at the thorax spines as well:

It's not exactly something we can use in most iNat sightings, but P. tortuwallina cannot call whereas P. spinosa can and does.

Through most of its range, it is sympatric with and less common than P. spinosa. In my experience you're lucky to get one P. tortuwallina in a night where you might see twenty or thirty P. spinosa. The exception to this is Mount Lewis, where P. tortuwallina is quite common (probably the most common katydid) and P. spinosa is apparently completely absent.

There is also a very old record of P. zwicka from Koolmoon Creek near Tully, but I am not sure of the validity of that. P. zwicka is very different to P. spinosa and there should not be any P. tortuwallina anywhere near there, so at least it should be obvious if we do get a sighting there. More on P. zwicka below.

So, heading south and the next rainforest area we reach is Eungella and Airlie Beach. Here we again have two species, neither of which are particularly common. P. zwicka is the more common of the two, and is known from the Eungella rainforests as well as more localities further south (and maybe north as we have seen). It's very similar in most respects to P. tortuwallina, and if you were to put them side by side I don't think I could distinguish them without a specimen. Here's a typical adult:

And here's a typical nymph:

We will get back to P. zwicka in a bit but for now we will move on.

The other species in the region is undescribed and I know very little about it. It is similar to P. spinosa in that it appears large and robust, but it's a little more spiny and it lacks red on the hind femur, instead having a large black patch on the inside surface:

The black markings on the pronotum also seem to be distinctive and are present on nymphs as well:

This species is only known from a few localities around Airlie Beach although it doesn't appear to be too rare. I really must take a trip down there and get some specimens!

Now we reach the two problem children as we travel further south to southeastern Queensland and northern NSW. Both P. zwicka and P. aberrans are found here, and for our purposes unfortunately they are essentially identical. We have already seen P. zwicka above, so here's P. aberrans:

And here's a nymph:

So, if they're identical, how do we tell them apart? Well, that's where it becomes problematic. There are differences in the important features like genitalia and the form of the stridulatory file and stridulatory vein, but these are generally not visible in any iNat sightings. I strongly suspect that P. aberrans calls whereas P. zwicka is silent which may be helpful at least. Otherwise though, we are restricted to using locality as our means of identification. As we have seen above with P. tortuwallina, Phricta species can be quite localised and I think it is reasonable to assume that specimens collected from the same locality are probably all the same species. Now we know this isn't always the case, and it's not a super accurate method of identifying species, but it's the best we've got. And if we all know that it's something of a guess, then I don't see any harm in making a guess for now. Hopefully in future we can look at more specimens and get a better feel for their distributions.

For now, here is a map of the distributions going by iNat sightings:

This is based on specimens used in Rentz, Su & Ueshima's (2005) revision of the genus. The full list of localities in this region for each species is:

P. zwicka: Amamoor, Montville, Tamborine Mountain, Canungra
P. aberrans: Mt Nebo, Burleigh Heads, Binna Burra, Terania Creek, Kyogle

Anything outside of these localities (or close to them) is probably not going to get an ID, although I have been assuming that anything north of the Sunshine Coast is P. zwicka and anything in NSW is P. aberrans.

If you want to help out with working out the differences between the two though, go find a male, splay out the wings, and get some good photos of the stridulatory region! Just try not to get bitten :P

Let's move on to the next tribe, the Phyllomimini, with the sole Australian genus Acauloplacella. These are probably our least common pseudophyllines which is a shame because they're among my favourites. They really are quite cool and luckily not too difficult to tell apart. We have four species in two subgenera known from the Wet Tropics and Iron Range of northern Queensland. Acauloplacella (Papuaprium) mecyna is known from Iron Range, Acauloplacella (Acauloplacella) hasenpuschae is known from the Wet Tropics, and Acauloplacella (Acauloplacella) incisa and Acauloplacella (Acauloplacella) queenslandica are known from both locatalities.

We'll start with A. mecyna because that is the easiest species to differentiate. In my experience it's also the most common species, although weirdly this is not reflected in iNat sightings as we have only a single observation. Why do we not have more?? It's endemic to Iron Range on Cape York Peninsula, but on both my trips to there it has been quite common, and in fact I reckon it was the most common non-phaneropterine katydids in the area. To be fair it seems mostly restricted to only a couple of plants (particularly Ficus opposita) but still. Go make more observations!

Anyway, A. mecyna is noticeably larger and more robust than the other species, and it usually has a couple of small to large brown spots on the tegmina:

It's very obviously different to the other species when you see it in person, but in photographs it can be a bit more difficult. The pinkish brown stripe down the centre of the pronotum and along the edges of the tegmina are a good feature to look for as well. Some other Acauloplacella species have a median stripe on the pronotum but it is always very pale white or cream.

At the very rear of the pronotum there is also an obscure pale and dark marking, which is mirrored on the other side. This is not present in any of the other species, but more importantly it's present in the male as a big white spot ringed in a thin black outline:

I am pretty sure that these spots are present on all Papuaprium males, and they seem to be at least partly present in the nymphs of both sexes as well, in the form of raised black marks:

The similar markings on the abdomen are also a good way to separate nymphs of this species from the other three.

Next we will look at A. hasenpuschae, which I reckon is probably the least common species. I have only seen it a handful of times and we only have one iNat record. It's restricted to the Wet Tropics but is the most southerly ranging species, and it's been found from Cairns down to near Townsville. Males are very easy to ID because they have two large brown tubercles on the pronotum:

Females don't have these tubercles but they do have moderate roughening of the pronotum here and you can vaguely see the similarity if you squint:

So how do you ID females then? The best thing to look at is the patterning on the wings. In A. hasenpuschae, vein M on the forewings (the most obvious long vein in the image below) is distinctly yellowish and is generally more obvious than any other vein or pseudovein on the forewings.

It's not always bright yellow but you should always be able to see it from a distance more clearly than any other lines on the forewing. Compare with the other lines on the forewings of the next two species below to see what I mean.

Nymphs of both sexes apparently have these tubercles, as shown by this subadult female:

These are actually probably the easiest species to identify as nymphs which is lucky for us.

The last two Acauloplacella are probably the most similar and although they are usually identifiable from photographs, you need to do a fairly close comparison to make sure you have the ID right.

A. queenslandica is the less common of the two, and is known from a variety of localities on the Atherton Tablelands and in the Daintree, as well as in Iron Range further up the cape. It's a fairly generic-looking species and at first glance it doesn't necessarily seem all that different to female A. hasenpuschae:

The key difference lies in the veins of the forewings. Notice how the major vein is prominent but not overly yellow, and from a distance it is not the most obvious line on the wings - instead there are yellow stripes further up the wing, which for the most part aren't actually veins at all. These yellow stripes aren't always present, but if they're missing then the veins around them will be at least a bit yellow, or sometimes there will be vertical yellow lines. Either way, there will be some yellowish stripes that are more prominent than that major vein. Once you notice these stripes, it should be easy enough to distinguish it from A. hasenpuschae. Both sexes are quite similar and I have no confirmed photos of nymphs so we will move on.

A. incisa is probably the most frequently-encountered species of Acauloplacella. It's not as abundant as A mecyna but it's much more widespread and is found through most of the lowlands of the central Wet Tropics, including in Cairns, so you can imagine that it would be the species that people come across the most often (it's also known from Iron Range). It's similar in size and colouration to A. queenslandica:

This one shows quite clearly how there can be vertical yellow stripes on the forewings sometimes. One fairly consistent difference can be seen better in this shot:

A. incisa often has a pale median stripe on the pronotum, which sometimes also extends onto the forewings as well. Most A. incisa have this and most A. queenslandica do not, but frustratingly this is not always the case. Alas! Incidentally, this picture also does a great job of showing how Acauloplacella can flatten their wings to cover their legs up, helping them to blend in even better and essentially completely removing any shadows that might give them away.

So then, what is the difference between A. incisa and A. queenslandica? The key is the shape of the forewings. In A. queenslandica, the forewings are a bit shorter and are broadly rounded at their ends, like in A. hasenpuschae. In A. incisa, however, the forewings are more elongate and are distinctly more pointed at the ends. This fantastic comparison should illustrate the differences perfectly:

In this diagram, A is A. queenslandica, B and C are A. hasenpuschae, D is A. incisa, and E is A. mecyna. You can very clearly see that A. incisa has a different forewing shape to the others (and that A. mecyna is larger and more robust than the others). This difference is very easy to see when you've got A. incisa and A. queenslandica side by side, but it's actually quite difficult to pick if you've just got one of them. So I would recommend comparing photographs afterwards rather than trying to decide which species you have in the field!

Again, both sexes are similar to each other, although it seems that males are less likely to have the median stripe extend onto the forewings than the females are.

I suspect that this is a nymph of A. incisa based on the pale median stripe, but it could also be A. queenslandica and it may be that we can't really tell the difference between these two species until they are adults:

So that about finishes up everything to say about Acauloplacella. Next we move to the most diverse group of Australian pseudophyllines, the Simoderini. We have four Australian genera found along most of the east coast of Australia from the Daintree down to Victoria, where they are our most southerly pseudophyllines, and in fact they're the most southerly pseudophyllines in the world except for a few South American species.

Our most distinctive species (and genus) is Tallebudgeroptera spininota, an unusual and uncommon species known from only a few localities in SEQ and northern NSW. They are easily distinguished from all other Australian Simoderini by the spines along the hind margin of the thorax:

As can be seen above, the sexes are similar but the male is a bit smaller and has more rounded forewings. Nothing is known about the nymphs but I expect that they would look similar (just without wings). There isn't really much more to say about this one because so little is known about it, so we shall move on.

Narea is an outlier in the entire Australian Pseudophyllinae both because of its southerly distribution and because of its habitat - it's the only genus not known from rainforest, and instead seems to be a genus of drier woodlands. They are uncommon but their numbers can apparently increase dramatically in some years. The most distinctive feature that unites all the species is a noticeable thickening of the antennae, especially at their base. Another good feature is that the spines along the sides of the thorax are not green - they're usually bright yellow or reddish brown, usually contrasting with the dorsal surface of the thorax (although some individuals have the entire thorax reddish brown). All of the remaining Simoderini have the thorax spines green except for Mastighaphoides vaginalis, which has them dull yellow with black tips. There are three described species of Narea but the true number of species is a little more confusing....

Of the described species, N. elongata is the easiest to distinguish - it has the tegmina pointed rather than round as in all other species:

N. elongata is known only from females, and is known from a small area in the vicinity of Sydney.

N. kungaree is probably the most widespread species of Narea and it's certainly the most common. It' for the most part similar to N. elongata, except the wings are rounded rather than pointed:

Males are similar to females but a bit smaller and darker:

And nymphs look basically how you would expect them to look:

N. kungaree is found from about Canberra to Melbourne and is our most southerly pseudophylline.

The last described species is N. compacta, which is pretty much just known from the original collection of a couple of males from Sydney. It's similar to N. kungaree but the tegmina are much more compact and rounded:

Virtually nothing is known about it as there have been no further specimens collected, but it's probably similar to the other species.

But hang on - N. elongata is only known from females, N. compacta is only known from males, and they're both known from the same region. Could they be one and the same? Well, normally I would have said no simply because the shape of the wings is so different between the two. But have a look at this photo:

Now that certainly looks like a female N. elongata and a male N. compacta to me. So it looks like they probably are the same species. But of course, more work is needed before we can say anything definitive.

So that's it for the named Narea, but as you may have suspected by now there is at least one undescribed species. It's quite a spectacular one but very rare. There is apparently a single specimen of it in the ANIC, and we have one iNat sighting of it:

The forewings are an interesting shape and the stripes on the pronotum also seem to be unique. So there should be no difficulty in IDing it at least. It's known from SEQ but might be more widespread, and pretty much nothing is known about it (as might be expected from something so rare).

We also have one additional sighting of note - this one from near Cooktown:

It's clearly a Narea going by the thickened antennal base (and the general 'feel' of it) but it's so far out of range from all of the others that it's surely undescribed. You Ning Su from ANIC suggested it might be the same as the undescribed species from SEQ, but it's just hard to say much more given that we have only a photograph of a nymph to go on. Hopefully some more will be found!

Alright, so finally we have the two genera Chloracantha and Mastighaphoides, which quite nicely follow a very similar pattern of distribution - both have one species in SEQ and three in FNQ. We'll start with Chloracantha.

The most distinctive species of Chloracantha is C. angularis, because it has a distinctly arched and pointed forewing:

They also usually have a number of small pale dots on the tegmina, and the pronotum has no patterning. Males are similar to females but much smaller, as is the case for all Chloracantha, and they have a pale brownish patch on the stridulatory region:

C. angularis seems to be a bit range-restricted and only occurs at higher elevations in FNQ. There are numerous scattered records from the Atherton Tablelands, and I've found that it's quite common on Mt Lewis.

C. lampra is by far the most common species of Chloracantha, and is essentially the 'lowland counterpart' of C. angularis. It's common around Cairns and at some times of year you can quite easily find a number of individuals in one area. It's overall similar to C. angularis with the most notable difference being the rounded tegmina:

But of course the more you look, the more differences you will see. C. lampra has a pale cream to yellow stripe on the bottom of the lateral lobes of the pronotum, it has small yellow spots on the tegmina, it's overall a more 'leaf green' rather than the bluish green of C. angularis, and it sometimes has large pale patches on the tegmina as well. The male also has a very obvious white spot on the stridulatory region, as opposed to the more diffuse brownish mark of C. angularis.

We also have some good photos of nymphs of C. lampra, which are structurally similar to adults (but without wings) but have slightly different colouring, with some pale spots on the abdomen:

I presume the nymphs of the other species are quite similar but we don't really have any images of them.

One thing that may not be obvious from these images is that male Chloracantha are tiny compared to some of their relatives (i.e. less than 2cm body length) - take a look at this one compared to my hand:

The single SEQ species of Chloracantha is C. hilleri, which is a little more robust than the other two species we have looked at so far. It's rather nondescript but as before, the more you look the more you see:

The pronotum usually has some paler stripes (similar to Narea), the tegmina often have a paler wash to their lower edge, and the main diagonal veins of the tegmina are also usually a bit paler and stand out against the background.

It's not always possible to see, but the abdomen is also bright yellow in most individuals:

C. hilleri is known from scattered records in SEQ from the Sunshine Coast down to about Byron Bay.

The least common Chloracantha is our final species, C. garradunga. It's quite similar in many respects to C. hilleri in many details of colour, but it's rather more elongate:

This female looks comparatively huge compared to other species in the genus too:

I've never seen this species in person but it does indeed seem that they are large - from measurements in the original description, the female C. garradunga is twice the length of the female C. angularis.

I don't have much else to say about C. garradunga because it's so uncommon, but it's known from a few localities from about Julatten down to near Innisfail.

And finally we reach our last genus, Mastighaphoides, which contains the largest of the Australian Simoderini. The species are all rather more similar to each other than the Chloracantha species are, but they're still relatively easy to distinguish.

The most distinctive species is M. vaginatus. Most obviously, the forewings are much broader and rounder than the other species (compare with the others below):

Less obvious but more helpful if you are dealing with nymphs is the form of the spines on the thorax. In M. vaginalis there are only a few large, robust spines along the edges of the thorax, and they are rather yellow with black tips:

These spines are quite obvious and in general as soon as a nymph is old enough to actually have thorax spines, it should be old enough to tell which species it is. The other three species have numerous very small green spines only.

M. vaginalis appears to be rather uncommon but is known from a number of different localities from the Daintree to a bit south of Cairns.

The least common Mastighaphoides, and indeed the most range-restricted of all of our Pseudophyllinae, is Mastighaphoides lewisensis. As its name suggests, it has only been collected on Mount Lewis near Julatten in FNQ. There aren't really many images of it, and even the specimen images don't really show a great difference between this and the next two species. It is rather smaller than the others, with the holotype male having a tegmen length of about 23mm and the paratype female having a tegmen length of 38mm (compared to >30mm and >42mm for males and females respectively of the other three species). However, the description is quite literally based on just these two specimens and there may be some variation.

Most useful I think will just be the distribution - the species is only known from Mount Lewis, and it's the only Mastighaphoides that has been collected from Mount Lewis. So if you're on Mount Lewis and you see a Mastighaphoides, you can be pretty sure you've got M. lewisensis.

So, is this nymph M. lewisensis?

Well, it was right at the top of Mount Lewis. Sooo.... yes, I would say it is. And that would make it the only live photograph of this species. I wish I had more to show you but alas! I'll have to do a few more trips.

The last two species are more similar than the others and it might be a bit more difficult to separate them from photographs alone. But luckily they have completely different distributions!

Mastighaphoides haffneri is the only southern species in the genus, and is known from numerous localities in SEQ and northern NSW. It's quite large and robust, and has rather rectangular forewings:

There is some variation in colour, and some individuals are quite yellow:

Males are similar to females but the stridulatory region is broad and pale:

And nymphs are about what you'd expect, although they are sometimes noticeably quite bluish, which can help distinguish them from Chloracantha hilleri:

M. haffneri is found over a broad distribution in SEQ and northern NSW, from about Gympie south past Port Macquarie.

Our final Simoderini and indeed our final Australian pseudophylline is the lovely Mastighaphoides tuberculatus. Other than the ubiquitous Phricta spinosa, M. tuberculatus is by far the most common pseudophylline in the Wet Tropics, and it's a relatively common sight in suburban gardens as well as undisturbed areas.

Overall it's very similar to M. haffneri but a little less rectangular:

Males are rounder again and like M. haffneri they have the stridulatory region at least partly pale:

The thorax spines are small and generally concolorous with the rest of the thorax, although sometimes they are quite yellow.

Once again, nymphs are pretty much as we would expect them to be, and as with M. haffneri they are sometimes quite bluish:

Younger nymphs of all Mastighaphoides species look like smaller versions of the second photo there, although generally without much in the way of spines.

M. tuberculatus is quite widely-distributed, and is known from virtually the entirety of the Wet Tropics from north of the Daintree south almost to Townsville. It's most common between Cape Tribulation and Innisfail though, and it appears to be very scarce south of Tully.

To cap off our Simoderini species, here are some fantastic wing comparisions of all of the Australian species, from Rentz, Su & Ueshima (2015) (note that they are not to scale):

A - male Chloracantha lampra; B - female Chloracantha lampra; C - male Chloracantha angularis; D - female Chloracantha angularis; E - male Chloracantha garradunga; F - female Chloracantha garradunga; G - male Chloracantha hilleri; H - female Chloracantha hilleri; I - male Narea kungaree; J - female Narea kungaree; K-L female Narea elongata; M - female Tallebudgeroptera spininota

A-B - male Mastighaphoides haffneri; C & E - female Mastighaphoides lewisensis; D - male Mastighaphoides lewisensis; F - male Mastighaphoides vaginalis; G - female Mastighaphoides vaginalis; H - male Mastighaphoides tuberculatus; I - female Mastighaphoides tuberculatus

And that brings us to the end of our species-by-species approach to the Australian Pseudophyllinae. There are still several things to discuss about the group as a whole though. The first thing to talk about is something that might seem obvious to somebody who hasn't seen much of this group before, and that's that they're really diverse in body form. I mean, does Phricta really look anything like Acauloplacella, considering the diversity of other katydids out there? In my eye, not really. The subfamily is united mostly on the basis of some subtle morphological traits. But recent molecular studies have suggested that indeed, these three groups are not closely related to each other. So in the near future, expect a bit of a shake-up to the katydid subfamilies that we know and love! For example, the results of this genetics paper suggest that the Phrictini are close to Segestidea, the Palm Katydid (in the subfamily Mecopodinae), that a group including the Pseudophyllini is sister to the Phaneropterinae, and that the Simoderini are a sister group to a big clade that includes Phaneropterinae, Mecopodinae, Phyllophorinae, and the remaining Pseudophyllinae. These are just the beginnings of this phylogenetic work and the groups may well shift around further, but for now it seems pretty certain that the Pseudophyllinae are not actually a natural grouping.

The distributions of these Australian species are also worth talking about a bit. Other than the genus Narea, the species are all restricted to rainforest, and so there are four 'geographic groups' that coincide with the four areas of tropical and subtropical rainforest on Australia's east coast. From north to south, these are:

Iron Range:

  • Acauloplacella mecyna
  • Acauloplacella queenslandica
  • Acauloplacella incisa

Wet Tropics:

  • Phricta spinosa
  • Phricta tortuwallina
  • Acauloplacella hasenpuschae
  • Acauloplacella queenslandica
  • Acauloplacella incisa
  • Chloracantha lampra
  • Chloracantha angularis
  • Chloracantha garradunga
  • Mastighaphoides vaginatus
  • Mastighaphoides lewisensis
  • Mastighaphoides tuberculatus

Eungella area:

  • Phricta zwicka
  • Phricta sp. nov.

SEQ and northern NSW:

  • Phricta zwicka
  • Phricta aberrans
  • Tallebudgeroptera spininota
  • Chloracantha hilleri
  • Mastighaphoides haffneri

We can see that the Wet Tropics has the highest diversity by far, and that Iron Range and Eungella, being smaller areas of rainforest, have only a few species each. But why are there no Simoderini at Eungella? It's a good question, and maybe there are some Simoderini and we just haven't found them. Time to go looking!

We can put all of these distributions together in a nice and handy map, which may cause your computer some trouble to load but it looks nice I promise :P It unfortunately doesn't include the undescribed species, but that's just more incentive to get them named!

Of course, this wouldn't be a complete review without a big ole key. Sometimes it's very difficult to find good characters but I've done my best, so hopefully it's helpful. It includes the undescribed species as well, at least where we have some information on them (i.e. excluding the FNQ Narea).

And one last thing before we wrap up - which species do we have observations of on iNat, and which are we still missing? We're actually doing really well. Even including known undescribed species, we're only missing three species out of 23! That means we've observed 85% of the species here on iNat. The three we are missing are all described too, so we know where to look.

  • Narea compacta - so as discussed above, maybe this species is actually a synonym of N. elongata, and maybe we actually already have a sighting of it guarding a female. But if we assume that they are in fact different, then we still don't have a sighting of this species. It does seem to be rather rare but it's known from a well-populated area, around Sydney, so hopefully it will turn up soon.
  • Mastighaphoides lewisensis - as you saw above, I do actually have a photograph of this species, I just haven't had a chance to upload it yet because I am very behind. So yes, it will be coming. Soonish. Eventually. I promise. In the meantime though if anyone else wants to trek up Mount Lewis and see some, go ahead!
  • Chloracantha garradunga - this is an interesting one because I wouldn't have expected it to be rare. It's supposed to be found through a lot of the Wet Tropics and yet it seems nobody has seen it. I've never seen it myself, and it's actually my last FNQ pseudophylline that I have not yet seen. The only people I know for sure who have seen it since it was described are David Rentz himself and @michaelmcmaster923. I will keep an eye out and hopefully if everyone else keeps uploading more photos we will get one soon.

And that finishes up our long and winding journey through the Australian Pseudophyllinae, or at least what is currently classified as Pseudophyllinae. They're some of our most stunning katydids and include some of our largest and most impressive species. They also provide a good opportunity to see if you can find all of the species local to you, because there aren't too many of them and they're fairly easy to identify. I'm hoping that this summary provides all the information you could possibly want on their distribution and identification, but of course if I've missed anything that's what comments are for. Another journal post coming very soon as well...

Posted on September 25, 2023 07:40 AM by matthew_connors matthew_connors | 6 comments | Leave a comment

August 09, 2023

Zaprochilus australis or Z. mongabarra? Or Z. ninae?? Or *checks notes* jingle bells

Did you know that we have more than one Zaprochilus species?? That's right, not everything is Z. australis. In fact, we actually have a grand total of four Zaprochilus species spread across the country.

Now of course, as you can probably tell from the iNat sightings, Z. australis is by far the most abundant and widespread species. In the east it's known as far north as the Hervey Bay region, and in the west it extends virtually to Perth (although it seems to be much rarer in this part of its range). It doesn't extend far into the more arid regions but it is widespread and common in Tasmania. Over the majority of its range it's the only species present and there really isn't anything else you could confuse it with. I'm sure we all know what it looks like but on the off chance that you've forgotten, here's my only sighting of the species:

So, what about the other three species? Well we have some iNat sightings of Z. mongabarra:

Now to the untrained eye I'm pretty sure that these two species look almost identical. The difference is quite subtle, but once you know what to look for it's extremely easy to tell the two apart. Just before the end of the wings of Z. mongabarra, there is quite a noticeable bump. That's because the forewings wrap around the hindwings, and the hindwings keep going after the forewings have ended. Not all individuals have such a pronounced bump, but they always have the forewings significantly shorter than the hindwings, as opposed to Z. australis which has the two ending at about the same place. Have a look at this female for a more subtle bump:

Z. mongabarra has a more restricted distribution than Z. australis but it's still fairly widespread. It appears to be most common in Southeastern Queensland but it's known from as far north as the Wet Tropics in North Queensland as well.

Now the other two Zaprochilus species we do not yet have iNat sightings of, but for different reasons. Z. ninae is known from coastal NSW between Jervis Bay and Batemans Bay and it is apparently not too uncommon. Unfortunately though it is virtually identical to Z. australis. It's supposedly a little larger, but the males are pretty much indistinguishable from Z. australis except for the genitalia. Females are a little easier but you need a very good view of the subgenital plate to distinguish them.

Here are the subgenital plates (and surrounding area for Z. australis) of Z. australis (left) and Z. ninae (right):

They are still quite similar, but with a good underside photo the two species should be easily distinguished. The carina (sometimes visible as tubercles) at the base of the subgenital plate of Z. australis should be the easiest feature.

So what about the final Zaprochilus species? Z. jingemarra is very easy to distinguish indeed, but it's also incredibly rare. In fact, it's only known from a single specimen:

As you can see, the wings are tiny! The male is unknown but probably quite similar, or perhaps with intermediate wings. Or perhaps even with full wings - we just don't know. It's only known from near Jingemarra in western WA, so if anyone's in the area keep your eyes peeled!

Posted on August 09, 2023 08:55 AM by matthew_connors matthew_connors | 1 comment | Leave a comment

July 04, 2023

Austrophlugis debaari vs A. orumbera - what's the difference?

Alright alright alright, let's make some more use of this journal! It's a good place for me to go through how to ID some groups both for your benefit and for my own, when I inevitably forget everything in a few months :P

So, Austrophlugis! A uniquely Australian genus with quite a number of species that can really only be differentiated by the end of the abdomen. Sounds difficult, right? You'd think so, and yet some of them are really easy to distinguish.

The further north you go, the more species there are, so for now I'm just gonna focus in on the area with the most sightings - southeastern Queensland and northern NSW. There are only two species in this region - A. debaari, which is the most common and widespread species, and A. orumbera which is still fairly common but has a much more restricted range.
Based on iNat records, A. orumbera ranges from about Noosa in the north down to Lismore in the south, buuuut it's always good to be safe and cast a wide net when using distribution to narrow down species. So for the purposes of iNat I'm gonna say that everything between about Bundaberg and Port Macquarie could be either species. Further south is only the introduced Sydney population (which I believe is A. debaari) and further north you get a mix of species including A. debaari, A. malidupa, A. manya, etc.

Adult males of the two species are the easiest to distinguish, and provided that the end of the abdomen isn't completely obscured, you should be able to tell the difference from pretty much any angle. In A. debaari the abdomen is 'normal', so to speak, and the external genitalia don't really protrude or anything:

By contrast, in A. orumbera the external genitalia are greatly produced into these huge lobate structures that extend beyond the wings and out to the sides as well:

These structures really are quite extraordinary, and they're visible even in blurry photos or photos from strange angles. They're also quite obvious on subadult and sub-subadult males, and if the photos are good they can probably be seen in even younger nymphs as well. Here is a subadult male A. orumbera:

And here is a sub-subadult male A. orumbera:

Compare that with the much more normal abdomen of the subadult male A. debaari, which only has two small flanges near the base of the cerci:

Okay, what about females then? They are a little more difficult in that you need to see them from a specific angle, but the difference is still quite large and obvious. The key is the shape of the subgenital plate, so you will generally need a lateral or ventral view. Dorsal only unfortunately won't cut it unless you're looking at a male. Here's the female A. debaari:

The subgenital plate is quite small and difficult to see - i.e. it's 'normal'. If you're struggling to work out where the subgenital plate even is, it's this little flap-like structure at the very base of the ovipositor:

In the female A. orumbera, the subgenital plate is greatly elongated into a strange pointed structure that extends almost to the end of the ovipositor. Unfortunately we don't have any super clear photos here on iNat so here are two different angles that should show you the structure pretty well:

It's that odd pointy thing underneath the ovipositor - from some angles it could quite easily be mistaken for one of the cerci, but it has a rounded rather than pointed tip, and it's usually rather brown towards the end as well.
The beginnings of this structure can also be seen in subadult female A. orumbera:

Aaaaand I reckon you could see it in a sub-subadult as well if you had good photos, but any younger than that and I think you'd just be guessing. The subadult female A. debaari have a subgenital plate which is very similar to that of the adult female.

So that about wraps it up for these two species. They're otherwise very similar, and have the same behaviour, diet, and habitat. Both species can and have been found at the same locality, as shown by @natashataylor's excellent observations, so just because you've seen one species before doesn't mean you don't have both! I may do an explanatory post about the other species in the genus at some point, but we just don't really have enough iNat sightings of them to do a good comparison with photos. The differences are very similar to those between A. debaari and A. orumbera but more subtle - A. orumbera is by far the most extreme species of the genus, which is helpful considering it is one of the most common!

Posted on July 04, 2023 09:23 AM by matthew_connors matthew_connors | 5 comments | Leave a comment

March 27, 2023

A guide to Australian Terpandrini

Some of you may have noticed that I've been going back through all of Australia's katydid observations recently, fixing up errors and making identifications for things that we all put in the 'too hard' basket. It's been fantastic to finally sort out some of these trickier groups, especially when some of the species involved have never been photographed alive before. I've just finished up going through the wealth of Terpandrus sightings we have, and it turns out we really do have a number of different species here that aren't too difficult to separate. But even though I know how to separate them at the moment, I am liable to forget all of that important information in future. So here's a perfect spot to write it all down! And of course, that also means that everyone else can get a good guide to the identification of these katydids. There are a couple of similar genera as well, so here is a guide to all of Australia's species of Terpandrini (plus one unplaced genus). Big thanks to @manassas for helping out with these, and I'm sure I'll get some comments from them below about important things I missed!

The most distinctive of our Terpandrini is of course Chlorobalius leucoviridis, the Spotted Predatory Katydid. It cannot be confused with any other species:

Both sexes are similar, with the only real differences being the ovipositor and the stridulatory region:

Larger nymphs are also distinctive and unique, and although I'm not exactly sure what smaller nymphs look like I imagine they are similar:

There is some variation in colour, with individuals ranging from bright green to dull olive green/brown, but the pattern is consistent and really there is nothing similar:

Other important features to note are the large forefemoral spines, the deep transverse groove on the pronotum, and the small white tubercles all over the femora.

C. leucoviridis is known from arid and semi-arid habitats across a very broad range, and has been recorded in every state except Tasmania and the ACT. The seem to be more common in the south and southwest and most records are from SA and southern WA, but in the east they extend into western Victoria and all the way out to southeast Queensland, and they have been recorded as far north as the Gulf of Carpentaria and just west of the Wet Tropics in FNQ.

Our second-most distinctive Terpandrini, in my opinion at least, is Burnuia mirru. This odd species has very short, broad wings that are unlike any other species. In the males this is particularly exaggerated:

The female's wings are not quite so broad, but the triangle where the forewings overlap each other is greatly elongated and has very noticeably convex sides:

Other than the wings, the rest of the body is fairly standard, and I would expect that nymphs would be fairly nondescript. This katydid is rarely seen though and I don't know whether a nymph has ever been seen before, let alone photographed!

B. mirru is known from a small number of sites in southwester WA, from Frank Hann National Park in the west to near Caiguna in the east.

Next up is a genus that is not actually assigned to the Terpandrini at present, and is currently unplaced within Listroscelidinae - Alinjarria. It is quite similar to several of our Terpandrini though so I am including it here for completeness.

Alinjarria contains two fairly similar species, A. elongata from the NT and A. jadoni from Queensland. Both are very slender katydids with short wings and long cerci. Here is the male A. jadoni:

And here is the female A. jadoni:

Here is the male A. elongata:

And here is the female A. elongata:

The easiest differences between males of the two species is the length of the cerci, and the easiest difference between females of the two species is the length of the wings. The two are currently only known from widely separate locations though, so there's no real danger of confusing them.

A. jadoni is currently known from a few localities in north Queensland in the vicinity of Mt Molloy and Dimbulah, and A. elongata is currently known from a few localities in northern NT in the vicinity of Darwin and Mataranka. They're known from drier savannah and woodland habitats which are widespread in those areas, so both are probably more widespread than this but they're just uncommon.

Nothing really is known about the nymphs of this genus as far as I can tell.

Next we have two genera that are quite similar to each other, Yutjuwalia and Yullandria. They contain two species each, three of which are very similar to each other (and have similar ranges), so we will look at those three together and then the fourth one by itself.

Yutjuwalia nyalma, Yutjuwalia sallyae, and Yullandria kakadu are all slender green katydids with a few white stripes and black stripes. They are overall very similar in form and colour to Alinjarria but are fully-winged, so adults at least cannot be confused! Nymphs are probably very similar but I do not know what the nymphs of any of these are like.

Yutjuwalia sallyae is by far the most well-known of the three species, and it's the only one for which live photos exist. Here's the female:

And here's the male:

For the other two we are stuck with specimens photos unfortunately, but specimen photos are far better than no photos. Here's the male Yutjuwalia nyalma:

And here is the male Yullandria kakadu:

So, how do we differentiate these three species? The best and most reliable character is the male cerci. Yutjuwalia sallyae has a short cercus with a long internal spine and a broad, almost square-shaped flange near the base on the inner dorsal surface:

Yutjuwalia nyalma has a cercus with a similar overall shape, but it is a bit longer, the internal spines is a bit shorter, and the basal flange is much longer and does not project very far:

Yullandria kakadu has a very different cercus to both of these, it being very elongate with two very small internal spines:

So in short: if you see one of these, get a photo of the cerci!

Okay, but the majority of photos of these species will probably not be that clear, at least not clear enough to distinguish the two Yutjuwalia species. And of course, we cannot differentiate females using this method. So are there other differences? The short answer is probably, but I'm not 100% confident in them. They seem to be consistent but we don't know enough about these katydids to tell what the variation between and within species is like.

The key lies with the shape and pattern of the pronotum and the top of the head. I'll show you the species first and then we'll discuss the differences.
Yutjuwalia sallyae:

Yutjuwalia nyalma:

Yullandria kakadu:

The first thing to notice is that the pronotum of Yullandria kakadu is noticeably broader towards the rear, and has broad white stripes dorsolaterally along its whole length. That is a very conspicuous difference that I am very certain will be consistent between the two genera, so we will not have any problems there.
The two Yutjuwalia species are much more similar to each other though. The key feature, I think (and thanks to @manassas for pointing it out), is that in Yutjuwalia nyalma the black stripes extend onto the head and reach the eyes, whereas in Yutjuwalia sallyae the black stripes stop at the anterior end of the pronotum. Is this difference actually consistent? I have no idea. I have only seen the holotype of Yutjuwalia nyalma so I don't know how variable they are, but I have seen four different individuals of Yutjuwalia sallyae now (not including the male above, where the ID is based solely on the length of the stripe) and all lack black striping on the head. So I think for now it is our best option in differentiating the two species.

In terms of range, all species are very similar, being found in the northern portion of NT. Yullandria kakadu, as its name suggests, is known from a number of records around the vicinity of Kakadu. Yutjuwalia nyalma has been recorded from similar localities, but is also known from further southeast near Borroloola. Yutjuwalia sallyae has records primarily from a tad further inland, from Katherine down to near Newcastle Waters, although the single iNat record is from up closer to Darwin. It's quite likely that all three of these species are a bit more widespread than what is currently known about them.

Yullandria lawagimana is a much more distinctive species than the three others above. In terms of shape it is very similar to Y. kakadu, but it has a very different colour and pattern:

And here is the female:

The pale greenish ground colour with some darker markings, the white stripes on top of the wings, and the very slender body are good features to look for. Additionally, to distinguish it from similar Terpandrus spp., look for the very elongate cerci and the saddle-shaped pronotum.

Y. lawagimana is widely distributed through central Australia, with records extending from far western WA through to inland Queensland. I wouldn't be surprised if they showed up in far inland NSW as well, but they probably do not extend much further than that. If iNat records are anything to go by then it is much more common that Y. kakadu, and indeed much more common than all of the other species we have looked at so far other than C. leucoviridis.

Aaaand that's it then, all done with the Terpandrini! Right?

What's that, you actually want to know about Terpandrus itself? Surely not.

Alright, fiiiiiiiine. I guess we'll talk about Terpandrus then.

Terpandrus is by far our most diverse and most common genus of Terpandrini, and it contains some of Australia's very largest katydids. T. cabon is either our second or our third last species, about on par with Segestidea queenslandica and smaller than Siliquofera grandis. Species of Terpandrus are found across Australia in a wide range of habitats, although they are absent from Tasmania and they have not been recorded within tropical rainforests as far as I'm aware. They're often quite common but they tend to live high up in the tops of trees, so although they are easy to hear they are not so easy to see!

The 19 species of Terpandrus have been divided up into five species groups, which are represented as species complexes here on iNat because iNat does not have a 'species group' rank. The Endota Group contains five species (T. borral, T. calperum, T. endota, T. paruna, and T. splendida), the Horridus Group contains three species (T. burragah, T. eucla, and T horridus), the Itye Group contains one species (Terpandrus itye), the Jumbunna Group contains five species (Terpandrus cabon, Terpandrus jimiramira, Terpandrus jumbunna, Terpandrus moonga, and Terpandrus norabeetya), and the Tauwa Group contains five species (Terpandrus bundawoodgera, Terpandrus illamurta, Terpandrus tauwa, Terpandrus weema, and Terpandrus woodgeri). These species groups are primarily delineated based on the structure of the cerci, but as we will see they are also very helpful in splitting the species up into broad categories.

I'll go through these roughly by species group with some exceptions, starting with the easiest-to-ID species and moving on to the more difficult ones later.

Three of the species of Terpandrus are very distinctive and cannot be confused with any other species. Funnily enough though, they are all from different species groups!

In my eye the single most distinctive species is Terpandrus itye. It seems Rentz (2001) felt the same way when he described it, as it is in a species group all of its own. Why is it so distinctive? Well it just looks... odd. Odd at least compared to all the other Terpandrus species. Here is the female:

And here is the male:

Do you see what I mean about it being odd, or is that just me? It almost looks like a cross between a regular Terpandrus and Burnuia. It's quite small too I think, on the lower end for Terpandrus. Now the most important feature to look at to distinguish this species is the heavily granulate pronotum. Only two species of Terpandrus have this feature, and we'll get to the other one in a moment.

T. itye is found only in the southwestern corner of WA, where it is known from a few records from Geraldton to Kalgoorlie and down south to near Northam.

The second distinctive species is Terpandrus eucla. Like T. itye, T. eucla has a densely tuberculate pronotum, but in terms of overall morphology and 'feel' it is much more normal. Here's the male:

The female I have no images of but it is similar.

The pronotum is really quite different to that of T. itye, being a bit more saddle-shaped and obviously with a different pattern. In fact, the broad black band towards the rear of the pronotum is also a good diagnostic feature. Some other species can have a black stripe but it is never this thick, and it isn't followed by a reddish band either. So even as a nymph this species is very distinctive and cannot be confused with any other.

T. eucla is a bit more widespread than T. itye, and is known from a few scattered localities in southern WA and SA, from the Nullarbor Plain westwards.

The third and final distinctive species is one of the most familiar, Terpandrus splendidus. T. splendidus is one of the largest species, and has a very distinctive pattern of white stripes on its wings and body:

Both sexes are similar:

As you might expect, nymphs also are similar and are very easy to ID:

They are the only species with such thick white lines on the pronotum as adults (some other can have very thin white lines, and some nymphs can have rather thick lines, but these species are generally found along the east coast), and as such it should be quite easy to identify them.

T. splendidus has one of the broadest ranges of our Terpandrus species, being found in arid areas across central and western Australia from the west coast all the way across the middle and just reaching far inland NSW. They have not been recorded in Queensland or Victoria but they do come close and I would not be surprised if they were found there; their range also extends north just past Alice Springs in the NT.

Next we'll look at some not-as-distinctive-but-still-pretty-distinctive species, starting with the two other species in the Horridus group.

Terpandrus burragah is superficially similar to T. splendidus but upon closer inspection it is really quite different. Some specimens do have a number of white stripes on them but overall the proportions and 'feel' are quite different:

Of note though is that the species really is quite variable; e.g. the holotype is quite a bit plainer:

The one consistent part is those large black patches at the posterior corners of the pronotum though, and as far as I know no other species has them. So adults certainly should be quite easy to ID.

Nymphs are a little different, and are much more similar to those of T. splendidus:

You can see that the black pronotal patches are starting to form, but they are interrupted by a white band. There are also a number of other white stripes elsewhere on the body.

T. burragah is known from a number of localities in northeastern NSW and SEQ, from about Bundaberg in the north and inland to near Dubbo. There are only a few records from coastal NSW in the far northeast, and it is apparently absent from most of the coast there.

You are very unlikely to ever confuse T. burragah and T splendidus simply because there ranges are so different, but it's not impossible that you might find one in an area in between the known ranges of the two species. So if it's a nymph, how would you tell? The best difference is to look at the leg spines (you will see this feature pop up a few times because it is quite useful for IDing nymphs).

In T. splendidus, there are several small spines on the dorsal surface of the foretibia, near the apex, and in T. burragah there are no such spines. Have a look at this zoomed in version of the T. splendidus nymph above and you will see what I mean:

There is a very obvious anterodorsal spine poking out in the distal half of the tibia. There are also two posterodorsal spines but they are a bit harder to see because they are pointing towards us - one is at the same level as the anterodorsal spine, and the other is lower down near the apex of the tibia. The exact number of spines on the dorsal surface of the foretibia is a bit variable, but in T. splendidus there are always at least two, and in T. burragah there are always none.

The caveat of course is that these spines can be very hard to see and you should be very certain that they are absent before concluding that you are looking at T burragah. To complicate matters further, tiny nymphs have only tiny spines or might lack them completely, so under a certain age an ID may just not be possible. And be sure you are looking at the right pair of legs! In both species there are dorsal spines on the middle tibia.

Next up is the first Terpandrus to be described and the type of the genus, T. horridus. When I first saw this species I thought it looked quite distinctive, and then I looked a bit closer and I couldn't see much to distinguish it from other species other than 'feel', but now that I've looked at it more closely it is indeed obviously quite distinctive:

The easiest feature for me is the texture of the tegmina. Rentz (2001) described them as 'coriaceous' which I think is a good word - in my eye the veins seem very coarse and raised above the surface, and on the whole there are a lot more very obvious small closed cells near the base of the wing. This is quite obvious when you compare with some of the species we have not discussed yet, which tend to have distinct veins in parallel to each other but with quite indistinct crossveins, at least compared to T. horridus. If you look carefully at T. burragah you'll notice that it also has very similar tegmen texture, albeit with the veins a bit more sparse.

The colour is also quite distinctive but you need to see a couple of individuals to get a hang of the variation. Here is a female that is a bit less vibrant in colour:

The purplish underside to the fore and mid femora, and the rather red subcosta and radius (the two main veins on the tegmina, very close to each other and running down the middle) both seem to be good features to look for. And you know what else is a good feature to look for? You guessed it, leg spines! Like T. burragah, T. horridus has no spines at all on the dorsal surface of the fore tibia. All other species in the area (except of course T. burragah) have at least one spine on the dorsal surface. As before it can be a bit hard to see sometimes, and you should be confident that it really is absent before concluding that it's not there.

T. horridus has a surprisingly small distribution considering that it was the first described species. It's known only from a small area around Sydney where it seems to be fairly common. It hasn't been recorded much further afield but I would still keep a lookout in adjacent areas of NSW.

Next up is one of the most vibrant species, Terpandrus jimiramira. With the bright red legs, ovipositor, and stripes on the tegmina and pronotum, it is quite a distinctive one:

There do not seem to be any live photographs of males but here is the holotype:

Of particularly important note here is that I don't know how variable the colour is. Certainly all of the ones that I have seen images of have very vibrant red patterning, but I can easily imagine some would be more subdued, so care should be taken to make sure T. jimiramira isn't ruled out based solely on the brightness of the red.

The bright colouring on this one seems to be a direct result of the trees it lives in - have a look how well they blend in:

T. jimiramira is known from mallee and other semi-arid habitats in a broad area around the corner between NSW, Victoria, and SA. It's most widespread in SA where it is known as far west as Port Lincoln, and although it is only recorded near the border in Victoria and NSW, it's probably a bit more widespread in NSW at least.

Now we are starting to head into the territory of less-distinctive-but-still-kind-of-okay species (or species pairs in fact), but soon enough we will find ourselves in the more difficult regions of the genus, alas!

Let's look at Terpandrus cabon and Terpandrus moonga, two rather uncommon species about which not all that much is known. Both are very large species - T. cabon is our largest listroscelidine and one of our largest katydids, and T. moonga is only marginally smaller. They are somewhat similar so we will deal with them together. Unfortunately only one live individual of either species has ever been photographed as far as I am aware, a male T. cabon:

Note the relatively uniform colour of the pronotum and most of the wings (including the radius and subcosta), the white stripes bordering the stridulatory region, and the very short, compact cerci.

For comparison, here is the holotype of T. moonga:

Overall it is very similar, but note especially the rather different pronotal pattern, with black stripes and a reddish posterior region. In life T. moonga is probably similar to T. cabon but a bit more colourful.

The white stripes bordering the stridulatory region seem to be a good feature to distinguish these two species from the others in the genus, but they are not really present on the type of T. cabon. I suspect that's because it has faded a bit, but really I just don't know. There certainly appears to at least be a hint of them so I reckon that is a good feature to look for, but it always pays to be cautious. And of course, we don't have any images of females from these two species, so who knows whether they share a similar pair of stripes. Hopefully the combination of location, size, cerci, and overall 'feel' will be enough to distinguish T. cabon and T. moonga from the others.

So how do we distinguish T. cabon and T. moonga from each other then? Well there is the pronotal pattern to go off, which I suspect is a good feature, but I am only working with one T. moonga and two T. cabon specimens so it is good to be a bit cautious. How on earth can we distinguish these two? If only there was an easy feature that we have used on other species before.... Yep, you guessed it, the spines on the foretibia are very useful. T. cabon has two rows of spines on the dorsal surface of the foretibia, an anterior row and a posterior row (each with 2-3 spines), whereas T. moonga has only the posterior row (usually with two spines). Our live T. cabon specimen has a very obvious row of three spines on the anterodorsal foretibia, quite a bit longer than the other species we have looked at so far. So hopefully they will be quite easy to distinguish!

Both T. cabon and T. moonga are known from southwestern WA. T. moonga occurs in the south, with records from Lake Grace in the west to Newman Rock in the east. T. cabon is known only from two localities I think, both further north - the type is from Leonora, and the photographed specimen is from Lake Austin.

Next we have two interesting eastern species, Terpandrus jumbunna and Terpandrus norabeetya. T. norabeetya seems reasonably common, and T. jumbunna is one of our most common species going by iNat sightings (or maybe that's just because they live near @reiner!). Both species are quite similar morphologically, so again we'll look at them in tandem.

Here is the male T. jumbunna:

And here is the female T. jumbunna:

Here is the male T. norabeetya:

Unfortunately I don't think we have a photo of the female T. norabeetya but you can imagine roughly what she looks like! Here's a different male for you, with a bit more vibrant patterning:

The most important thing to notice about these two species is the short, rather strongly tapering tegmina. That seems to be pretty unique to these two species, especially considering only east coast species, so it's a very good feature to look for. It can be a bit difficult to see unless you've got some side-by-side but once you get the hang of the difference it should be easy enough. Compare especially with some of the species below (e.g. T. endota) and you should be able to see the difference in proportions.

How do we separate these two species from each other though? The key feature listed by Rentz (2001) in his key is that in T. jumbunna the subcosta and radius are pretty much the same colour as the rest of the tegmen and do not contrast strongly with it, whereas in T. norabeetya the subcosta and/or radius are noticeably paler and do contrast with the rest of the tegmen.

I'm always kind of sceptical of subtle colour differences, so is that a real feature?
Well, yeah, it seems to be... but like...                    

In reality though that does seem like a pretty good difference. I have only found a single individual so far where I suspect that it is the other species, primarily based on range and the other nearby sightings. It's this female from Victoria which I am quite sure is T. jumbunna despite the colour of the veins:

So I think most of the time the vein colour is a good difference, but use a bit of common sense as well and see what has been recorded nearby and what the ranges are of the different species. If you want to be 100% certain of your ID, male cerci are the way to go.

Here is T. jumbunna:

And here is T. norabeetya:

They are definitely quite similar, but there are also some clear and obvious differences which is good. The internal spine of T. jumbunna is quite short and obtuse, whereas in T. norabeetya it is more elongate and much sharper. Similarly, the basal flange of T. jumbunna is rather short and evenly rounded, whereas in T. norabeetya it is larger and with rather straight, parallel sides. With luck these differences would probably be visible in a good photo even if you didn't know to photograph the cerci specifically. They don't help us with the females unfortunately, and we are reduced to having to associate them with a male, but it's better than we get for some other species later on so count yourselves lucky!

What about nymphs? They are quite easy to distinguish from other species if you know what you're looking for, but unfortunately they are not all that easy to distinguish from each other and you probably need an adult to be sure if you are in an area where both species have been recorded.

Here are some typical T. jumbunna nymphs:

And here is our only photographed T. norabeetya nymph:

In terms of colour, that black marking on the posterior of the pronotum in T. jumbunna seems to be a pretty good feature. Most nymphs seem to have it and no other species that I have seen has such a thing (but be careful, because T. norabeetya almost has that and I would not be surprised if other individuals can look exactly like that). T. norabeetya is a bit more indistinct, but compared to nymphs of other species it should still be diagnosable. The key feature to look for is.... drumroll.... of my god you guessed it, it's the spines on the dorsal surface of the foretibia! Of course.

We can't use the spines to distinguish between T. jumbunna and T. norabeetya, but we can use them to distinguish them from the other east coast species. In T. jumbunna and T. norabeetya, there are spines only in one row on the dorsal surface - the posterior row. There will only be 1-2 spines there, but that should be enough to see if the image is clear. If you look at our photos above, the spines should be clearly visible on all except the two adults where the forelegs are a bit out of focus (you can see them if you squint but I wouldn't trust that to ID them). All the other species in the area have either no dorsal spines on the foretibia, or they have both an anterior and a posterior row of spines. The only possible species that could cause confusion is T. jimiramira, which is only found near the extreme southwestern edge of the range of T. jumbunna, but it should otherwise be quite distinctive with its red legs.

Both species are found in the east of Australia, and there is a bit of overlap in the distribution. T. jumbunna is primarily known from the southeast, with the bulk of records coming from between Melbourne in the south and Sydney in the north. There are a couple of additonal scattered records in inland NSW though and a few in SEQ as well. T. norabeetya is a bit more restricted, with records in coastal NSW and SEQ, reaching from about Sydney in the south north to SEQ. I think for the most part it should be easy enough to decide on a species based purely on range, but in potential overlap areas around Sydney and SEQ we should be a little more tentative, especially if individuals seem a bit atypical.

Unfortunately that is where we end with the easy species, and now we come to the difficult and essentially identical groups of species. One group is still a bit easier than the other though, so we'll start with that one.

Excluding the distinctive T. splendidus, the Endota Group comprises four very similar species of Terpandrus that are really only distinguishable from call or with a specimen in hand: T. borral, T. calperum, T. endota, and T. paruna. It's probably just easiest to show you them and then do some explanation.

We have no live photos of T. borral but here is the holotype male:

Here is the male T. calperum:

And here is the female T. calperum:

Here is the male T. endota:

And here is the female T. endota:

Here is the holotype male of T. paruna:

And finally here is the female T. paruna:

As you can see they're all very similar, and although you may notice some differences in colour and pattern I assure you that they are just individual variation. The red posterior region of the pronotum is a good feature to look for here, although it varies from almost absent (as in the female T. calperum above) to very uniformly dark red (darker than any shown here). The tegmina are quite elongate and uniformly green, with a pale subcosta and/or radius. The broad pale posterior margin on the lateral pronotum is also a good feature (although it's present in other species too). These features in combination should be useful in separating them from the other species of Terpandrus that they are found with. If all else fails though, go for the leg spines! In these four species there is both an anterior and a posterior row of dorsal spines on the foretibia, whereas in all other species they could be found with there are either no spines or only a posterior row of spines (except T. cabon, but I don't think the ranges quite overlap, and that species is very different anyway).

So, how do you tell them apart then? Well, not very easily. If you don't have a specimen, you have three options: distribution, male cerci, and male call (and there is some overlap in all but call unfortunately!). That means that you generally can't tell females apart without associating them with a male, unless they are in an area where only one species occurs. I'll go through distribution first, and then we'll delve into how to split the species in areas of overlap.

T. paruna is the easiest species, because it has no recorded areas of overlap with the other three (although it comes close, so we will still go through differences later). It is found in southwestern WA, and has been recorded from near Stirling Range in the west to near Fraser Range in the east. So you should usually be able to distinguish T. paruna with some confidence.

T. borral is known from the far southern areas of SA and southeastern WA, from Caiguna in the west all to the Eyre Peninsula in the east. It has mostly been recorded very close to the coast but it could be present further inland as well.

T. calperum is known from SA and far western Victoria, and is probably present in southwestern NSW as well. It's known from near Nullarbor in the west and extends into Victoria at least as far as Hattah and Nhill.

T. endota has the broadest range of these four species and occurs along the east coast of the country, from Melbourne in the south to Bundaberg in the north along a broad coastal band.

So there are two, potentially three areas where there is some overlap. In these areas we need to look at the male cerci and the call.

In the easternmost overlap zone in Victoria, T. endota and T. calperum can be distinguished relatively easily if you have an image of the cerci. In T. endota, the serrations on the internal margin of each cercus extend right to the very end, and there is a large tooth at the tip of the cercus:

In T. calperum, the serrations on the internal margin of each cercus stop a bit short of the end, and there is a large tooth just before the tip of the cercus; the tip itself is rounded:

It's not the most clear thing to see in the photos but I assure you it is very easy to see in life; see also the live photograph below for a clearer view. So that is the easiest way to distinguish those two species. You can also distinguish them by call, but I must admit that I don't actually know what the call of T. endota sounds like! I'm sure it is written somewhere but I cannot find any diagram or recording of it.

T. borral, T. calperum, and T. paruna unfortunately all have rather similar cerci. There are certainly some minor differences but they are a bit more subjective and I don't know how much I trust them. For example, in T. borral the apical tooth is only a little larger than the other teeth, and it is basal to a small weakly concave area:

In T. calperum, on the other hand, the apical tooth is distinctly larger than the others and the region just apical to it is not concave:

The basal flange of the cerci of T. borral is also a little more prominent than that of T. calperum, but again these are not easy to see unless you compare the two side by side. A similar problem occurs when trying to distinguish T. borral and T. paruna in the west. T. paruna has cerci that are a little more similar to those of T. calperum but almost have between that and T. borral:

So in the regions where these three species could potentially overlap with each other (i.e. western Victoria and southeastern WA), the only reliable way to distinguish the species is by call. Luckily Terpandrus are generally quite noisy, although these species tend to usually call mostly at night. It's generally difficult to convey sound through a written description (especially considering that I haven't actually heard most of these myself), but luckily we have some wonderful diagrams from Rentz (2001) that show the difference:

So T. borral has a bit of a faster and shorter call than the other two, which is good to know because it's the one most that overlaps with both of the others. Even if you don't know how to interpret these call diagrams, if you're in the area for them you can make a recording and someone else will be able to help for sure!

Okay, what about nymphs? Well I'll just say upfront that there is no way to tell the nymphs of the four species apart aside from range and association with adults, but luckily they are quite easy to distinguish from other species in the genus. Here's a selection of medium-sized nymphs:

There's definitely some variation there but they all have the same general pattern - two pale stripes from the eyes to the cerci, with a darker brown region dorsally, with green elsewhere. They're small details but the darker patches near the wing buds and in the middle of the pronotum are also almost always present. As far as I can tell, this pattern isn't present in nymphs of any other species.

As the nymphs get older this pattern starts to fade a bit and reddish patches start to appear on the pronotum:

And finally subadults are really quite like the adults in terms of colouration:

So the nymphs should be easy enough to ID to species group at least.

We have one last group to go, and unfortunately they are the most difficult. The Tauwa Group contains five species, T. bundawoodgera, T. illamurta, T. tauwa, T. weema, and T. woodgeri. This is the only group that has managed to colonise the north of Australia, and they're the only species present through a lot of Australia. All five species look more or less like this:

The most distinctive feature is the green pronotum with a broad cream posterior section, with a thin black stripe separating the two regions on top. Of note though is that not all specimens have the black stripe (although most do). No other species is similar except T. eucla, which has a much thicker black stripe which fades into red, and has an obviously tuberculate pronotum.

How do we differentiate between these species? It's quite difficult unfortunately, and for the most part photographs will not show the differences unless you are specifically looking to photograph them. There is extensive range overlap as well, so location is not always all that useful.

The easiest of the five species to distinguish is T. bundawoodgera. Unlike the other four species, the top of the abdomen is very dark brown to black:

The other four species have the dorsal surface of the abdomen green, similar to the rest of the abdomen. This is the only species in which females can be readily distinguished unfortunately! And of course, the problem with it is that the dorsal abdomen is usually completely covered by the wings so in most photos you simply cannot tell. If you have an adult male and can see the cerci, they are also helpful. T. bundawoodgera cerci are strongly flattened and have two short teeth and one angulate bump; these three things are approximately evenly spaced:

Compare those with the images of the cerci of other species below as well to see the differences.

T. bundawoodgera is known from scattered localities in inland SEQ, from Goondiwindi north to Augathella and Rolleston in the north. It overlaps with T. woodgeri for the entirety of its range and also with T. tauwa in the north unfortunately, so we cannot use distribution to help us at all really!

There is one species that we can distinguish by range though - T. weema! As you can see, it's practically identical to the other species:

However, it's found in a completely different region, which is very helpful - it's the only species in this group known from the southern half of the continent. T. weema has been recorded from a few spots in southwestern WA, from Kalgoorlie to Lake Barlee. It's probably a bit more widespread than that but seems to be quite uncommon. It does not overlap in range with any of the other species in this group, but it comes a little close to the southwestern distribution of T. woodgeri. In this case, male cerci will be quite helpful. T. weema cerci have two large teeth, the more basal of which is strongly expanded, and the entire structure is bent upwards at the end:

Once again, compare with the cerci of the other species below to see the difference more clearly.

T. tauwa is - you guessed it - also pretty much identical:

Cerci are our best option to distinguish this species once again. The cerci of T. tauwa are fairly similar to those of T. weema, but the basalmost tooth is not strongly expanded and is only a little thicker than the apicalmost tooth:

T. tauwa is known from a broad range along the east coast of Queensland, from the tip of Cape York down to about Carnarvon Gorge. Unfortunately it overlaps with T. woodgeri over the entirety of its range, and also overlaps with T. bundawoodgera in the far south of its range.

Okay, we have mentioned T. woodgeri a couple of times, but what do we know of it? Well it's the only one that we have definitive iNat sightings of. Here's a male:

And here's a female:

The reason we have definitive iNat sightings is because T. woodgeri has the largest range of any species of Terpandrus, and there are many areas where it's the only species present (and quite often not just the only species in this group but the only Terpandrus or indeed Terpandrini of any kind). It's known from near Exmouth in the west all the way to about Goondiwindi in the east, and is known from pretty much everywhere north of this imaginary line as well, including all through the Kimberley, the NT, and Cape York. So if it's in an area where other species do not occur (e.g. Darwin) then you can be quite confident that you have T. woodgeri.

In most overlap areas though the same techniques are needed - i.e. we need to see the cerci. The cerci of T. woodgeri have the two teeth quite thin and very widely-spaced, which should be fairly easy to see in a clear photograph:

Can you believe we have only one last species to go?? Woohoo! I have bad news though. Here is the type of Terpandrus illamurta:

Doesn't look all that scary yet? Well, T. illamurta is identical to T. woodgeri, right down to the details of the cerci. Even the internal genitalia are remarkably similar. So even if you have a specimen in your hands, you can't tell whether it's T. illamurta or T. woodgeri. The only way to distinguish the two species is by the male call. I don't have a diagram unfortunately, but in T. illamurta the call has two pulses per chirp, whereas in T. woodgeri it has three pulses per chirp. T. illamurta also quite often has the black stripe on the pronotum missing, but this is not a reliable difference unfortunately.

Despite this difficulty, T. illamurta luckily has only a very small distribution. It has been recorded in a small region around Alice Springs, primarily Kings Canyon. So we only really need to hear recordings from a very small region to be sure of which species we have.

Surprisingly (given how widespread and common they are), we actually have no images of nymphs from this group at all. I imagine they are quite similar to the adults in terms of colour and pattern, but I guess we will have to wait for someone to find one and see for ourselves!

That's it for Terpandrus, but just as a summary here's the distribution of dorsal foretibial spines for all of the species groups (just because they are so useful!):

Itye Group - Posterior spine row only
Horridus Group - No dorsal spines
Jumbunna Group - Posterior spine row only, except T. cabon which has both anterior and posterior spine rows
Endota Group - Both anterior and posterior spine row
Tauwa Group - No dorsal spines

Just remember, this is only on the foretibia and it can be difficult to see, so make sure you're confident before deciding on a species!

Now you may also have been wondering, how are these species groups even defined? Some seem obvious, but others seem to have no meaning at all. E.g. why is T. eucla placed in the Horridus Group, and not with the Tauwa Group?? Well, it's based primarily on the shape of the cerci but there are other features that group them together as well. I'll show you all of the cerci below and give a brief description of each group so you can get an idea of the differences.

Itye Group - T. itye - cercus quite elongate and cylindrical with a single large internal tooth

Horridus Group - T. burragah (no image unfortunately - like T. eucla but broader), T. eucla, T. horridus (no image unfortunately - like T. eucla but a little narrower) - cercus elongate and rather flattened with a single internal tooth

Jumbunna Group - T. cabon, T. jimiramira, T. jumbunna, T. moonga, T. norabeetya - cercus moderately elongate to more compact, with a small internal subapical tooth and a broad internal basal flange, these variously fused

Endota Group - T. borral, T. calperum, T. endota, T. paruna, T. splendidus (no image unfortunately - like the others but much broader) - cercus flattened and serrated on internal margin

Tauwa Group - T. bundawoodgera, T. illamurta, T. tauwa, T. weema, T. woodgeri - cercus slightly flattened with two internal teeth

So then, that in fact wraps up all of the species of Terpandrini we have here in Australia! It's fantastic that live photos exist of most of our species, and photos of specimens exist for all of them. Far better than we can say for many groups!

But my friends, we are not done yet. Now comes the best part! We have all these species, and lots of images and explanatory notes, but it's rather a long document that I have produced. So to summarise all of the information and give you something nice and easy to work with here is a complete key to Australia Terpandrini based on the features most easily seen/heard in an iNat sighting!

Key to adult Australian Terpandrini

So, that just about sums up everything! One final question remains - how many of these species have we got on iNat, and how many do we still need to get sightings for?? Well, there are 27 species and we have iNat sightings for 16 of them (~60%), meaning we have 11 species still needed. What are they, and why have we not seen them yet??

Burnuia mirru - this species is apparently just quite uncommon. If anyone in southwest WA wants something to look for though, go ahead! There are a couple of others from the area too worth looking for (more on them below)

Alinjarria elongata - again, this species I think is just uncommon or at least quite localised. But in the right habitat it would surely be not too difficult to find. Anyone in the NT, please have a look and see what you can find!

Alinjarria jadoni - okay, I think I have to go looking for this one myself because it has been found in a few spots quite close by in north Queensland. Like its congener I think it's just uncommon

Yullandria kakadu - seems to have quite a restricted range centred on Kakadu NP, but I reckon it wouldn't be too uncommon in the right areas

Yutjuwalia nyalma - I think this species is probably a bit rarer, and its range is mostly within Arnhem Land so it's not the easiest spot to get to. There are records from a bit further east though so hopefully we will get lucky.

Terpandrus moonga - another which I think is probably just quite uncommon, but anyone in southwest WA please keep an eye out!

Terpandrus borral - we may have a sighting of this one in fact, but it's just too similar to T. calperum to accurately distinguish it from the photos. Anyone in southern SA, please record any Terpandrus you hear! (And get pictures please too)

Terpandrus bundawoodgera - this one is uncommon and difficult to distinguish from related species, but we have no potential sightings from within range yet. Anyone in the broad SEQ area who finds Tauwa Group Terpandrus, please check under the abdomen to see the colour!

Terpandrus illamurta - this one is definitely a combination of both rarity and difficulty. I think the best bet is to just make lots of recordings around Alice Springs (especially Kings Canyon) and hope that one of them is the right call.

Terpandrus tauwa - I have seen two potential T. tauwa myself now but they have both been females unfortunately! I'll keep my eye out and make recordings, but anyone else in Queensland please get some cerci pics :P

T. weema - finally, this one just seems to be uncommon because there are no sightings of anything similar in southwest WA. Another thing for people to look for!

So our hotspots for un-observed species are southwestern WA and northern NT, with three species each, and followed by north Queensland with two. So what are you all waiting for?? Go find some good katydids!!

Posted on March 27, 2023 02:33 AM by matthew_connors matthew_connors | 11 comments | Leave a comment