Sunday 12 August 2012

Three new species of cave-dwelling Grylloblatids from Oregon and California.

Grylloblatids, or Ice-Walkers, are unusual, wingless insects adopted to life at high altitudes. Their closest relatives are the Mantises, but this is not immediately obvious, due to the highly derived bodies of the Mantises, the Grylloblatids more closely resembling Cockroaches (Mantises probably also evolved from Cockroach-like ancestors).

In a paper published in the journal Zootaxa on 7 August 2012, Sean Schoville of the Universit√© Joseph Fourier Grenoble describes three new species of Grylloblatids discovered in mountain caves in Oregon and California.

The first new species is named as Grylloblatta oregonensis, the Grylloblatid from Oregon. It is described from a single adult female and a number of juveniles found drowned in a pool of water in a cave 160 m from the entrance and 43 m bellow ground level at Oregon Caves National Monument; it is not clear if this was the environment inhabited by the living animals. The adult female is 1.4 cm long, and buff-to-white in colour. The juveniles were pure white.

Grylloblatta oregonensis, adult female. Scholville (2012).

The second species described is named Grylloblatta siskiyouensis, named after the Siskiyou Mountains,  the range in which the Oregon Caves National Monument. The species is named from an adult female and two juveniles found on snow at night in a pine forrest, three juveniles collected in the twilight zone at Blind Leads Cave, and a single adult female captured in a cheese-baited trap near the entrance of a cave. The adult females were roughly 1.3 cm long and buff-to-white in colour, the juveniles were brown.

Grylloblatta siskiyouensis, adult female. Scholville (2012).

The final species is named Grylloblatta marmoreus, the Marble Grylloblatid; it was found in the Marble Mountains in California. The species is named from an adult male found on a rock in the twilight zone of Planetary Dairy Cave in Marble Valley, and a juvenile found in a pit near the cave entrance. The adult is 1.25 cm in length and buff in colour, the juvenile is amber.

Grylloblatta marmoreus, adult male. Scholville (2012).

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