The colorful grasshopper that remained incognito for over 100 years
Petasida ephippigera (Orthoptera - Pyrgomorphidae) is an endemic Australian species with striking appearance. Commonly named Leichhardt’s Grasshopper, after explorer Ludwig Leichhardt, this grasshopper is brilliant orange-red, navy blue, and black over the whole body and wings.
Besides being one of the most spectacularly colorful of the Australian grasshoppers, it is truly remarkable because until the 60’s the genus Petasidawas known from only five specimens of the single described species, three in the British Museum (Natural History) and two in the Geneva Museum.
Petasida ephippigera remained without being collected for about 120 years, and was rediscovered on 30 July 1971, when it was found a single male nymph. This discovery was soon followed by a number of others.
Unlike some other grasshopper species that have varied diets, the Leichhardt’s grasshopper prefers a plant called Pityrodia (Lamiaceae), and nothing else (specimen shown is on a Pityrodia plant). This species occurs in the rugged country of Kakadu, in the Northern Territory of Australia, wherein said plant is distributed.