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magazine / mj02

May/June 2002 issue


FEATURE

Friend or foe? | It’s a bug’s life | Grasshopper facts | Grasshopper anatomy
Grasshoppers on film | Nature’s symphony | Literary hoppers | Archives


Grasshopper anatomy


Some species of grasshoppers are among the largest insects in the world. One of their most obvious features is the big pair of hindlegs specially designed for jumping, but they have many other interesting attributes, as well. Check out the grasshopper’s elegant body plan and consider how it differs from your own.

Abdomen:
the segmented tail area containing the heart, reproductive organs and most of the digestive system.

Antennae:
grasshoppers have two, which detect touch and scent.


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Eyes:
two multifaceted eyes, made up of many hexagonal lenses.

Head:
contains the brain, eyes, mouth and points of attachment for the antennae.

Integument:
the hard but strong exoskeleton that protects the grasshopper. It is made of three layers: the outer cuticle, underlain by the epidermis and the innermost basement membrane.

Jumping legs:
the hindmost pair of legs. The huge extensor muscles of the femur gives the leg great power, and the catapult-like joint allows a fast take-off, making the grasshopper an excellent jumper. The two pairs of front walking legs lack these qualities.

Mouth:
the mouthparts of the grasshopper are very strong because they have to chew up grasses and tough plant parts. Mandibles grind side-to-side, while the labrum (which is like a hard upper lip) and labium chop up and down.

Palps:
situated beneath the jaws, the palps are long, segmented mouth parts that grasp food.

Spiracles:
a series of holes on both sides of the abdomen, which are the external openings of the trachea and are used for breathing.

Thorax:
the middle area of the body, to which the legs and wings attach.

Tympanum:
a thin, sound-sensing membrane that is stretched across an air space and is connected to the nervous system. These organs occur in pairs, and in the Orthoptera (grasshoppers and crickets) the location can vary, being found on the legs of some species and the thorax of others.

Walking legs:
the four, short front legs (forelegs and midlegs) are used for walking.

Wings:
grasshoppers have four wings, with the back two for flying and the front two as tough covers for the delicate flying wings.

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