The Sudden Appearance of a Cricket

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Beat-up male Phonarellus miurus.

On one of my first days in Gorongosa, I heard an insect call that stood out from the rest. It was a very loud, persistent, beeping sound emanating from a patch of short grass. I quickly located the singer, which turned out to be a striking black and white cricket. He was unfortunately quite beat up, having broken both antennae and also missing two legs. I photographed him anyway and then pinned him. Later, Piotr noticed it and recognized it as Phonarellus (Semaphorellus) miurus (Saussure, 1877), a species that he had only collected as females and nymphs once before in Mozambique. The very next day, I headed back to the same spot to see if I could find another. Sure enough, there was another male singing a short distance away from where I found the first male. He, too, was easily captured. This individual was in much better shape than the first one. Piotr took this one and managed to capture a recording and some photos of it.

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A much better specimen of a male Phonarellus.

Over the next week, Phonarellus started showing up everywhere. They were calling from almost every patch of grass, in nooks around the lab, and even right in the middle of the road. The species is a mimic of certain toxic carabid beetles, which explains their blatant singing behavior – they don’t have to worry about staying concealed. Both Piotr and I were amazed that this species, which Piotr had never encountered singing, suddenly appeared in such great numbers. Many insects in Gorongosa are very seasonal like this, so it is not especially surprising, but certainly very exciting.

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A singing male Phonarellus on one of the sandy roads in Chitengo Camp.

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A female of Phonarellus miurus. In this species, the ovipositor is very reduced, so it is tougher to distinguish the sexes. This is the only female I have seen, and unfortunately she escaped after I took this shot.

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