The Pink Grasshopper – No, It’s Not a Cocktail

Grasshopper nymph on a fern frond by Victoria Hillman
Grasshopper nymph on a fern frond. Photo by Victoria Hillman.

Victoria Hillman is a National Geographic Explorer and Research Director for the Transylvanian Wildlife Project overseeing research on carnivores and biodiversity of Europe’s last great wilderness. Follow the expedition here on Explorers Journal through updates from the team.

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Unfortunately due to inclement weather field trips have been minimal over the last week, but we finally managed to get out to the research site on Sunday and we found something we certainly were not expecting to find, pink grasshoppers, not one but at least six all in an early nymph stages as the wings have not yet developed. So far we have only found these at one small locality within our research site, all the other we have found have been the normal colour morphs.

We believe these funky individuals to be a rare morph of the common meadow grasshopper Chorthippus parallelus.

So what is so special about a pink grasshopper?

How many of you have seen a pink grasshopper in the wild?

I certainly hadn’t and didn’t even know you could have a pink grasshopper, let alone actually see one for real in the wild! They do exist but rarely make it to adulthood as they are easily picked off by predators as they are so conspicuous against the green foliage compared to the normal green and brownish morphs which is one of the reasons they are hardly ever seen, the other reason I will explain below.

Grasshopper trying to hide by Victoria Hillman
Grasshopper trying to hide. Photo by Victoria Hillman.
Later stage nymph by Victoria Hillman
Later stage nymph. Photo by Victoria Hillman.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

1.5cm nymph by Victoria Hillman
1.5cm nymph. Photo by Victoria Hillman.

So why are they pink?

It is called erythrism an unusual and little-understood genetic mutation caused by a recessive gene similar to that which affects albino animals. This mutation results in one of two things happening or even a combination of the two; a reduce or even absence of the normal pigment and/or the excessive production of other pigments, in this case red which results in pink morphs. Although it was first discovered in 1887 in a katydid species, it is extremely rare to see these pink morphs so you can imagine our delight at finding so many in one area and they probably all have the same parents both carrying the recessive gene. All the individuals we found were nymphs and a couple of things can now happen if they make it to adulthood, they can lose the pink colouring altogether, they may stay pink or even be a variation between the two! We will be checking back on these individuals throughout the coming weeks and months to see what happens.

Nymph from above illustrating their conspicuousness against the green leaves by Victoria Hillman
Nymph from above illustrating their conspicuousness against the green leaves. Photo by Victoria Hillman.

We are hoping for much better weather in the coming days so we can get back out and document more of the flora and fauna, fingers crossed!

 

NEXT: Returning to Transylvania: Europe’s Last Great Wilderness

My name is Victoria Hillman, I am a wildlife biologist and photographer. I have a BSc in Zoology with Marine Zoology, an MSc in Wildlife Biology and Conservation and years of experience behind the lens photographing the natural world. Through my work I would like to challenge people's perceptions of the natural world, encouraging them to enjoy and conserve it. I am the Research Director for the Transylvanian Wildlife Project overseeing our research on the carnivore populations and biodiversity of Europe's last great wilderness.

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