More Bell-bearer Treehoppers

October 7th, 2010 - 4:48 PM | Filed under Featured Creatures | 6 Comments

January 28, 2010 | Caraça Natural Park, Minas Gerais, Brazil

Another photo, same individual

One more shot, same individual

I’ve been researching these neat little treehoppers some more and I found references to a couple of Brazilian species, Bocydium globulare and tintinnabuliferum. I had to mention these just because of the scientific names.

Do you know the Edgar Allen Poe poem, “The Bells”? Remember these lines?

To the tintinnabulation that so musically wells
From the bells, bells, bells, bells,

That came to mind as soon as I saw that scientific name, tintinnabuliferum. Besides just sounding cool, it translates as “bell-bearer”. The other name, globulare, I can’t quite work out, but I think in part it means “little balls”.

Also, I still haven’t seen a convincing purpose for the headdress other than what Marshall mentions in the book I referenced in the previous post. He suggests that in some cases they give the appearance of an ant (something usually undesirable to predators).

Elsewhere on the web I saw it mentioned that the headdress breaks off easily. A predator might then end up with just this nonessential body part.

Staring at these though, I just don’t see an ant and I didn’t see any specimens missing their decorations. One thing that comes to my mind is that it looks like an insect that has succumbed to a fungal infection. Compare, for example, this image.

Here’s the only photo I have of a different individual.

January 28, 2010

And here’s a few shots of one I found a few days earlier.

January 26, 2010 | Caraça Natural Park, Minas Gerais, Brazil

Rear view

6 Responses to “More Bell-bearer Treehoppers”

  1. Patrick Coin says:

    There was a neat television special, “Aliens Of The Amazon Treehoppers”. Worth watching, I think.
    These are so bizarre–imitating fungus, perhaps?

    • Troy Bartlett says:

      I just tried to track that show down. I don’t think I have any way to watch it unfortunately. Not available via netflix or amazon. I don’t get the Science channel. Oh well, looks like something I’d enjoy.

      I see you skimmed the text :). I suggested it imitates fungus as well. That you see that and suggested it as well strengthens that argument.

  2. Patrick Coin says:

    That’s what I get for reading real quick right before I had to run to an appointment! (I was so entranced with the blog, I wanted to read every entry to date, even though I did not really have time.)
    They might have mentioned the fungus hypothesis on Aliens of the Amazon–I’m not sure. So it was somebody else’s independent idea, though maybe not mine.

    • Troy Bartlett says:

      I just watched “Aliens of the Amazon: Treehoppers”. Dish network is offering the Science channel for free right now and the show happened to air this morning.

      They did in fact mention the fungus idea and Cordyceps specifically. I learned a few things, so definitely worth watching.

      • Troy Bartlett says:

        While it’s still fresh in my mind, here’s a few takeaways from the episode.

        1. The bulbous structures like shown here and also in some other genera are hollow.

        2. Structural analysis revealed a weak point at the base of the headdress for Bocydium. It likely does break off easily and may aid in escaping from predators. An individual missing the headdress was shown, otherwise fine.

        3. The narrator pronounced Membracidae as if it ended with a long ‘a’ sound. I thought it was like a long ‘e’. I just checked my Webster’s dictionary which seems to confirm my pronunciation.

        4. Treehoppers kick quite effectively when defending their brood. They will also vigorously flap their wings while perched.

        5. I enjoyed hearing treehopper sounds that special equipment made audible.

  3. […] shown a couple of odd treehoppers already, but here’s yet another variation on that theme. This time, I do kinda […]

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