Wildlife

Troll-Haired Mystery Bug Found in Suriname

It may or may not be a new species, but this crazy-haired bug is an eye popper of a planthopper.

Trond Larsen was lucky enough to notice and photograph the tiny insect—about five millimeters long—during an international expedition of field biologists to the mountainous region of southeastern Suriname in 2012. (Related: “Remote Rain Forest Expedition Finds 60 New Species.”)

planthopper picture
The young planthopper’s crazy hair. Photograph by Trond Larsen

It was a quick trick done “with much difficulty, as they jump away very fast,” said Larsen, of Conservation International’s Rapid Assessment Program (RAP).

That’s also why Larsen wasn’t able to collect a specimen of the tufted bug, which is needed to compare it to other insects and figure out if it’s a known species.

Another thing that makes identification tough is that the planthopper was in the nymph stage of development, which means that it looks very different from adults.

Some insects undergo simple metamorphosis (sometimes called incomplete or gradual metamorphosis), meaning they molt into a slightly larger nymph and then finally into an adult with complete wings, according to Leeanne Alonso of the nonprofit Global Wildlife Conservation, who was also part of the expedition. Alonso noted that the young insect’s “wing buds” are visible in the photograph.

Paging Don King

As for that spectacular fountain of Don King plumage, the scientists say it’s a waxy secretion many planthoppers excrete from their abdomen, which may protect the bugs against predators and parasites.

You’d think something like that would attract, not distract. But predators of this insect would be very tiny, and grabbing those waxy tufts might be challenging—or the hairs might even break off, like a lizard’s tail, letting the insect live another day.

In addition to the odd planthopper, the scientists also found an incredible array of biodiversity in the Suriname rain forest, collecting data on 1,378 species. (See pictures of rain forests.)

“It’s one of my favorite places on Earth,” said Alonso, though she notes that gold mining is threatening the pristine nature of the area.

Follow Liz Langley on Facebook and Twitter.

Liz Langley is the award-winning author of Crazy Little Thing: Why Love and Sex Drive Us Mad and has written for many publications including Salon, Details and the Huffington Post. Follow her on Twitter @LizLangley and at www.lizlangley.com
  • alisha

    this is soo cool looking its like a sea horse/ shrimp!!

  • Lynn Easton

    My goodness we have so much to learn about our earth it astounds us constantly with new and interesting offers of beauty to delight us
    Who would have thought of a 70 hair styled bug intriguing

  • edwin

    good work guys

  • Favas Kallayi

    Really amazing………!

  • steve from minecraft

    this is cool

  • Alex

    Awesome picture!

  • Liz Langley

    Agreed on all counts – and thanks to the field scientists who go out and do all that hard work so we can see such amazing things. 🙂

  • mayada

    منظر جميل ورائع جدا العالم مليء بالجمال

  • Joshua

    Very cool looking bug, lol Don King of the bug world 😛

  • Ella
  • Usama

    Yeah ! Innovative !

  • Luis ZP

    I found the same species, in an islan in my country (Costa Rica) in Pacific ocean, Isla Del Caño

  • Jason Scarman

    Looks like a leaf-hopper nymph. I find them in my yard from time to time.

  • Jose

    What kind of pokemon is this?

  • Jihane

    subhanallah, very pretty

  • jhong

    That insect isn’t new in my place.. But we have it in here all white in color..

  • Jennifer
  • Jose Iván castillo

    I am from Sarapiqui, Heredia in Costa Rica and here we have a very similar specie same size maybe diferent color!

  • beno

    يَزِيدُ فِي الْخَلْقِ مَا يَشَاءُ إِنَّ اللَّهَ عَلَىٰ كُلِّ شَيْءٍ

  • Davison Matimba

    Good picture

  • Sarita

    Looks like one of the Dr. Suess book character’s!! 🙂

  • Jason Livingston

    Looks like a nice fishing lure.

  • Espella Hui

    And I spotted a similar bug like this one on several occasions at the peak in Hong Kong https://www.facebook.com/photo.php?fbid=10150179469202177&set=a.10150121444257177.320259.528962176&type=3&theater

  • Randall Friedman

    Great photograph! Perfect focus, The leaf has beautiful texture. Which end is the head?

  • Barbara

    Almost all planthopper and leafhopper nymps have those waxy “tails” at that stage of development. That is not at all unusual. I’m quite surprised that such a fuss is being made over that one characteristic.

  • ted

    I will give it a name, Surinamis Jordanis! hehe

  • Nicolas

    What the hell is this 😀

  • sameh

    فعلا سبحان الله العالم مليء بالعجائب

  • Lissariel

    Wonderful planet creatures…. seem a some kind of “extraterrestrial” creature …

  • Nicky Bay

    Heya Liz

    The “crazy hair” has many variants, from short stubbly ones to messed up bushy ones and even those that look like fireworks. We see quite a lot of these planthoppers here in this gallery!

    http://www.flickr.com/photos/nickadel/sets/72157631558329704/

  • Udhaya

    amazing…good job

  • Suktana

    Amazing!!

    I have shot bit similar bug/insect in the year 2010. It hops so fast that, I wasn’t able to take a perfect picture of it. Have a look at this link…
    http://www.flickr.com/photos/sukscorpio/10990719855/

  • Siang Kok

    Amazing find. There ought to be more such facinating bugs and insects waiting to be discovered.

  • mr. pozi

    like a plastic hair.

  • Steven Gehner

    I filmed a waxy tuft insect like that in Mulu National Park on Borneo.

    https://www.facebook.com/photo.php?v=124940740895985&set=vb.100001401801458&type=3&theater

    Can I name it Steven

  • serdar

    Wonderful

  • Hedda

    i saw this insect for along time ago in Tunisia so it s not a new discovery

  • Les

    It’s a lesser spotted Rectotuftus fluffybum

  • Mady

    it doesnt look waxy to me – it looks like a tail! 😀 go bugs!

  • Gracie

    Wow! Very alien.

  • Steven David Johnson

    I photographed a planthopper nymph for the first time this past summer in Costa Rica. To Get a proper ID, I googled “fiber optic insect.” That did the trick!

    http://www.flickr.com/photos/stevendavidjohnson/10046356456/

  • danielmclion

    Cannot help it, but was it found on April 1, 2012?

  • Fanny Dimasruhin

    It’s amazing picture…

  • Pedro

    Awesome picture, there must be millions of species yet to be discovered! Carry on with the great work beloved explorers!

  • Ravi Thakoer

    How do you know that this “…Mystery Bug…”
    is “…in the nymph stage of development…”
    if you still need to “…figure out if it’s a known species…”
    ?

  • John Barker

    Forget the damn bug, well at least put it on hold (izzat thing fer real?), I want to go on safar/expedition with liz!

  • carlos

    Good pic

  • Guso

    Just attach a hook and you have a nice fishing lure

  • Qusay Bitar

    this bug was also spotted in Malaysia, here is a video i shot of it with several other species

  • Liz Langley

    Glad so many people are intrigued by this incredible little creature!

    @Steven David Johnson Fantastic pic!!

  • Lisa Taylor

    The little fella is quit interesting. I can definitely see a resemblance of two creatures. I see a grasshopper and a shrimp but where does the hair come from? I would like to see more on this one. Thanks for sharing.

  • Norman

    We’ve got similar cicadas in Taiwan. Please look at the photos on my FB (I’m not sure how to post photos here).

    https://www.facebook.com/normguan/posts/10152026814738817?comment_id=29545865&offset=0&total_comments=7&notif_t=share_comment

  • Ronald Baró

    I’m sorry but this insect looks like a toy. It does not look like a real insect.

  • Elsa J Lucas

    I agree with alisha. It does look like the cross between a seahorse/shrimp. Love it! Envy those who have such experiences and take such great photos. Could be a discobug.

  • Maria

    Very cool hairdo

  • Liz Langley

    Thank you to everyone for sharing comments and also your pictures and videos – love looking at these!

    @Ravi Thakoer My understanding is that they can say it’s in the nymph stage because it looks similar to other insects in that stage of development, for example, the smaller wing ‘buds’ that aren’t quite mature wings yet. 🙂

  • Milton Camuyrano

    É um belo exemplo de animal moderno. Usou fibra ótica para melhorar o penteado.

  • Liz Langley

    @Randall Friedman
    The fuzz is on the back end – you can see the eye on the right in this photo. 🙂
    Big Hello to BC! (One of my favorite places!)

  • Mary

    I captured a picture of this same bug when I was in the Osa Peninsula of Costa Rica this past August! I didn’t know that it could be a new species! lol exciting 🙂

  • Mary
  • Malcolm

    Have those scientists been plying with genetics (DNA) again, behave yourselves lol.

  • Corolyn Clay

    This looks like a hoax to me. Being an artist, I see a construct. those hairs look too much like monofilliment and I have seen glass beads that look like the body. Are you sure this is for real?
    I do know a thing or two about insects having grown up with a father who collected and even discovered a new species. So am I seeing something real or not?!!! Lovely if it is.

  • Bill mc Canners

    It lookes like a Morgellon Hybrid insect, maybe a new species has risen by the effect of all the spraying with the whole Geo Engineering going on. Looks interesting but scary too.

  • Sadat

    Wonderful and beautiful unique bug….Thnks to Liza for posting this picture..

  • mehnaz

    Mesmerising creation of God….

  • MichaelM

    Same nymph found also 3 years ago in Guyana.

    http://www.flickr.com/photos/rainforests/5159347350/
    planthopper nymph (Nogodinidae)

  • Ella

    I see these little guys all the time in Melbourne. They are so cute in real life, they look like tiny frogs with crazy hair. I have no idea what they are called but they can’t be that new because I’ve seen them around my garden ever since I was a kid.

  • tromomo

    Ready for Rio’s Carnival.

  • Liz Langley

    Thank you to everyone who is sending in pics and videos and offering so many takes on this wild little insect! 🙂

  • CAMILO SENIOR

    I felt like when I saw one of these in san cipriano, in the Colombian Pacific. I invite you to see my photos!
    https://www.facebook.com/photo.php?fbid=457304587656892&set=a.457297904324227.106399.100001320634217&type=3&theater

  • Prem Kumar Gutty

    Strange creature. But, it is true that there are many unexplained facets of life on earth. Modern science has become too straight jacketed and hence is moving towards monotony.
    I am an natural photographer by hobby.I have some amazing collection of pictures on plants and flowers. They are posted on my URL
    https://www.google.com/+PremKumarGutty

    I have many more in my system and would love to do a photo literary book to some one if I get a sponsor.

  • Michael Wilson

    This is most likely the nymph of a Tropiduchidae plant hopper. The tuft of thread is composed of wax. In the adults the wax may be used by the female to cover eggs.

  • Ahmad Mujtaba Khan

    Very unique, colorful, hope it would not be a harmful insect. Good effort by the inventors.

  • jamie

    My neighbour has one of those growing out of his ear.

  • James Jay Shults

    The first time I saw one I was surprised by its tail as well.

    https://www.facebook.com/photo.php?fbid=10151020780920772&l=c854693ba4

  • Liz Langley

    Looking at posted photos and amazed to see that these little creatures seem to come in different colors (unless lighting/filters make them look different?)
    If they were toys I would collect them all. 🙂 Thanks for posting!

    @jamie Ha! I hope you got a picture!

  • LORDSOTH709

    What the HELL is that!

  • kelly

    Whoa! Never been a bug lover but this little critter might just change my mind its amazing looking!

  • Auriberta Alves do Nascimento Campos Silva

    INTERESSES
    DESASTRES NTURAIS, CIVILIZAÇÕES, ANIMAIS , EXTINÇÃO, ENERGIA NUCLEAR. ELEMENTOS DE TERRAS RARAS. E O QUE PUDER SER DIVULGADO.

  • Darryl Gartland

    Hi I was just on a island in cambodia called koh tah kiev only 28sq2 in size and I seen 3 different types of this specimen one in brightgreen which I took a photo off, I also seen one in red and brown like this and also one that was brown spots and a lighte shade of brown surrounding . There was a variety of insects on this island I found which I really think are unique the problem is the island has been bought by chinese investors and are planning to and already started to cut the jungle down to make way for tourist and casinos etc … there were flying lizards giant hornets , spiders that resembled a broken piece of twig and moths and butterflys bigger than my hand ! There are only approx 20 people that live on the entire island and did not know or dont go into the jungle as I did ..if this is a new species this particilar place would be perfect for research giving its size and the few people whom reside there ..before it is lost to society

  • Glaufx Garland

    funny … however, even if we don’t know it yet, after all these nuclear tests and other experiments of stupid scientists we have to wait for the unexpected 1000% soon -I am not a prophet -simply logical Greek -as Anaxagoras said DO NOT BE AMAZED IF YOU SEE SOMETHING NEW there are millions of things that we don’t know and millions of things that we will never see and none of these are new.

  • lilly moore

    that looks weird

  • Charlie

    Encontré este insecto en la selva de Cancún.

  • Liz Langley

    I think it’s cool that so many people have had sightings of insects like these. I want to see one! 🙂

  • Diane Kniskern

    https://m.facebook.com/story.php?story_fbid=10204148953465280&id=1269324623
    This little guy is living on our deck in coastal VA. Perhaps a stowaway on a naval vessel docked in Norfolk??

  • Ravi Thakoer
  • Andy

    PNG 1024×597 600.3k

    My foto in Abhaziya (nearest Sochi) coast. 2010 year

  • CH Tang

    Just caught a little one here on my porch in Redwood City, California. Never seen one before, but I nteresting that it appears to be widely distributed based on the comments.

  • Liza

    I’m from Malaysia. I found this bug on my spinach leaf few days ago. But the tail not that fluffy and I tooks few picture of it from different angle. https://m.facebook.com/photo.php?fbid=10155362014294204&id=669494203&ce

  • William Krithinithis

    This is a FISHING LURE!!!

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