Blog: Potato chips of the rainforest

One fewer species

On special days in the field we find a species that none of us have seen before. On very special days, we find a species that no one has described before. When this happens, the Barro Colorado Island (BCI) species count goes up by one. Today, the BCI species count went down by one.

Over the last few years, we have occasionally caught a species that we affectionately called “Itarissa-waxy-dimidiata” because it had characteristics that were reminiscent of other familiar species, but had an unusual wing shape and was clearly not any of these other species. Or at least that is what we thought.

Our collaborator Tony Robillard just sent us DNA sequences for this species and noted that the DNA of this species was a perfect match with the DNA of one of our familiar species. My first reaction was ‘how cool! two different species with indistinguishable DNA!’ My second reaction was to go check for calls of the two “species” to see if they sounded different. It seems that we’ve never recorded “Itarissa-waxy-dimidiata.” Hmm, that’s odd…

I checked the spreadsheet and realized that we have only caught females of “Itarissa-waxy-dimidiata.” I then checked, and we had only caught males of the other species. It seems that we have a species where males and females are pretty different in shape. Wow! That’s a shockingly variable katydid species…

The female (“Itarissa-waxy-dimidiata”)

The female (“Itarissa-waxy-dimidiata”)

And the male. Look how differently the wings are shaped!

And the male. Look how differently the wings are shaped!