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Local animals in this group:

grasshoppers

Acrididae

What do they look like?

Grasshoppers are medium to large insects. Adult length is 1 to 7 cm, depending on the species. Like their relatives the katydids and crickets, they have chewing mouthparts, two pairs of wings, one narrow and tough, the other wide and flexible, and long hind legs for jumping. They are different from these groups in having short antennae that don't reach very far back on their bodies.

Grasshoppers usually have large eyes, and are colored to blend into their environment, usually a combination of brown, gray or green. In some species the males have bright colors on their wings that they use to attract females. A few species eat toxic plants, and keep the toxins in their bodies for protection. They are brightly colored to warn predators that they taste bad.

Female grasshoppers are larger than the males, and have sharp points at the end of their abdomen that they to help lay eggs underground. Male grasshoppers sometimes have special structures on their wings that they can rub their hind legs on or rub together to make sounds.

  • Sexual Dimorphism
  • female larger
  • male more colorful
  • Range length
    1.0 to 7.0 cm
    0.39 to 2.76 in

Where do they live?

Grasshoppers are found on all continents except Antarctica. There are over 10,000 species of grasshoppers known, about 50 of which are found in Michigan.

What kind of habitat do they need?

Most grasshoppers prefer dry open habitats with lots of grass and other low plants, though some species live in forests or jungles. Many of the grassland species invade farmer's fields too.

How do they grow?

Grasshoppers all hatch from eggs, and as they grow they go through incomplete metamorphosis. This means that each stage looks a lot like the adult, but adds a few changes each time the young grasshopper sheds its skin. Grasshoppers usually shed 5 or 6 times. After the last time, they are adults and can reproduce. Most species also get wings when they are adults.

How long do they live?

Most grasshoppers can only survive the winter as an egg; the adults all die when it gets cold. In warm climates which don't have freezing winters, grasshoppers can probably live longer, maybe for several years. Most die long before that though, from disease or predators or drought.

How do they behave?

Grasshoppers are most active during the day, but also feed at night. They don't have nests or territories, and some species go on long migrations to find new supplies of food. Most species are solitary, and only come together to mate, but the migratory species sometimes gather in huge groups of millions or even billions of individuals.

How do they communicate with each other?

Grasshoppers mainly use sound and sight to communicate, though like animals, scent and touch are important during mating. In some species males vibrate their wings or rub their wings with their legs to make sounds that attract females.

What do they eat?

Grasshoppers are herbivores, they eat plants. They mostly eat leaves, but also flowers, stems and seeds. Sometimes they also scavenge dead insects for extra protein.

What eats them and how do they avoid being eaten?

Grasshoppers jump or fly away, and then hide if they can. Some species eat toxic plants and keep the toxins in their bodies to discourage predators.

What roles do they have in the ecosystem?

Grasshoppers can be important herbivores. There are sometimes so many, eating so much, that they change the richness and abundance of plant species where they live.

Do they cause problems?

Some grasshopper species are important pests of agriculture. They eat the plants that farmers grow in their fields. This is not usually a big problem in North America, but it has been in the past, and is still a major problem in Africa and Asia.

  • Ways that these animals might be a problem for humans
  • crop pest

How do they interact with us?

Grasshoppers are an important food for other animals. Some species eat weed plants that are bad for cattle and horses.

Are they endangered?

No grasshoppers are known to be endangered.

  • IUCN Red List [Link]
    Not Evaluated

Contributors

George Hammond (author), Animal Diversity Web.

Glossary

Australian

Living in Australia, New Zealand, Tasmania, New Guinea and associated islands.

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Ethiopian

living in sub-Saharan Africa (south of 30 degrees north) and Madagascar.

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Nearctic

living in the Nearctic biogeographic province, the northern part of the New World. This includes Greenland, the Canadian Arctic islands, and all of the North American as far south as the highlands of central Mexico.

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Neotropical

living in the southern part of the New World. In other words, Central and South America.

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Palearctic

living in the northern part of the Old World. In otherwords, Europe and Asia and northern Africa.

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bilateral symmetry

having body symmetry such that the animal can be divided in one plane into two mirror-image halves. Animals with bilateral symmetry have dorsal and ventral sides, as well as anterior and posterior ends.

chaparral

mid-altitude coastal areas with mild, rainy winters and long, dry summers. Dominant plant types are dense, evergreen shrubs.

crepuscular

active at dawn and dusk

desert or dunes

in deserts low (less than 30 cm per year) and unpredictable rainfall results in landscapes dominated by plants and animals adapted to aridity. Vegetation is typically sparse, though spectacular blooms may occur following rain. Deserts can be cold or warm and daily temperates typically fluctuate. In dune areas vegetation is also sparse and conditions are dry. This is because sand does not hold water well so little is available to plants. In dunes near seas and oceans this is compounded by the influence of salt in the air and soil. Salt limits the ability of plants to take up water through their roots.

diurnal
  1. active during the day, 2. lasting for one day.
ectothermic

animals which must use heat acquired from the environment and behavioral adaptations to regulate body temperature

fertilization

union of egg and spermatozoan

forest

forest biomes are dominated by trees, otherwise forest biomes can vary widely in amount of precipitation and seasonality.

herbivore

An animal that eats mainly plants or parts of plants.

internal fertilization

fertilization takes place within the female's body

iteroparous

offspring are produced in more than one group (litters, clutches, etc.) and across multiple seasons (or other periods hospitable to reproduction). Iteroparous animals must, by definition, survive over multiple seasons (or periodic condition changes).

marsh

marshes are wetland areas often dominated by grasses and reeds.

metamorphosis

A large change in the shape or structure of an animal that happens as the animal grows. In insects, "incomplete metamorphosis" is when young animals are similar to adults and change gradually into the adult form, and "complete metamorphosis" is when there is a profound change between larval and adult forms. Butterflies have complete metamorphosis, grasshoppers have incomplete metamorphosis.

migratory

makes seasonal movements between breeding and wintering grounds

motile

having the capacity to move from one place to another.

native range

the area in which the animal is naturally found, the region in which it is endemic.

nocturnal

active during the night

nomadic

generally wanders from place to place, usually within a well-defined range.

oceanic islands

islands that are not part of continental shelf areas, they are not, and have never been, connected to a continental land mass, most typically these are volcanic islands.

oriental

found in the oriental region of the world. In other words, India and southeast Asia.

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oviparous

reproduction in which eggs are released by the female; development of offspring occurs outside the mother's body.

parthenogenic

development takes place in an unfertilized egg

rainforest

rainforests, both temperate and tropical, are dominated by trees often forming a closed canopy with little light reaching the ground. Climbing plants are also abundant. There is plenty of moisture and rain, but may be somewhat seasonal.

scrub forest

scrub forests develop in areas that experience dry seasons.

seasonal breeding

breeding is confined to a particular season

semelparous

offspring are all produced in a single group (litter, clutch, etc.), after which the parent usually dies. Semelparous organisms often only live through a single season/year (or other periodic change in conditions) but may live for many seasons. In both cases reproduction occurs as a single investment of energy in offspring, with no future chance for investment in reproduction.

sexual

reproduction that includes combining the genetic contribution of two individuals, a male and a female

social

associates with others of its species; forms social groups.

solitary

lives alone

temperate

that region of the Earth between 23.5 degrees North and 60 degrees North (between the Tropic of Cancer and the Arctic Circle) and between 23.5 degrees South and 60 degrees South (between the Tropic of Capricorn and the Antarctic Circle).

terrestrial

Living on the ground.

tropical

the region of the earth that surrounds the equator, from 23.5 degrees north to 23.5 degrees south.

 
University of Michigan Museum of ZoologyNational Science Foundation

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Hammond, G. . "Acrididae" (On-line), Animal Diversity Web. Accessed April 18, 2014 at http://www.biokids.umich.edu/accounts/Acrididae/

BioKIDS is sponsored in part by the Interagency Education Research Initiative. It is a partnership of the University of Michigan School of Education, University of Michigan Museum of Zoology, and the Detroit Public Schools. This material is based upon work supported by the National Science Foundation under Grant DRL-0628151.
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