Readers’ wildlife photos

We haven’t heard from Lou Jost in Ecuador for a while, but he came through this week with some pictures of a spectacular tropical katydid; probably a new species. His notes are indented:

This is most definitely NOT in the your “Spot-the-*” series! Both a male and female of this ornate katydid came to a collecting light at our Rio Zunac scientific station in the Amazon foothills of eastern Ecuador two weeks ago. These were nothing like slow-moving leaf-mimic katydids; they were fast on the ground, quick to take wing, agile in the air, and very eager to use their bright yellow “jaws” to bite down hard on anything that bothered them, especially my fingers. Whenever they took offense at something I did, they would flash their bright underwing pattern at me and spread their silvery blue wings. They escaped and had to be recaptured many times.

I kept them alive for two weeks, photographing them like crazy. They were difficult subjects; I kept them in a mosquito net in my house and would go into the net with them to photograph, so they couldn’t escape. After a while they stopped worrying about me. When they passed away I mounted them in their threat display attitude and photographed them some more (the shots with a white background, and the microscopic detail shots).

These belong to the genus Moncheca. It is closest to M. elegans but the colors don’t match the only expert-certified M elegans photos on the internet.

I include a picture of the male genitalia which, as you know, are often the main distinguishing feature of insect species. Non-matching genitals leave no chance for crossbreeding, hence indicate good biological species.

Most of these were taken with an Olympus PEN F camera and 60mm macro lens using focus-stacking. The higher magnification pictures were taken with a microscope objective mounted on a telephoto lens on the PEN F.

 Lou has some more exciting news for us, but I’ll reveal it when I’m allowed to!


  1. Posted January 20, 2018 at 7:53 am | Permalink

    Amazing pics!

  2. Janet
    Posted January 20, 2018 at 8:16 am | Permalink

    Stunning coloration. Thank you!

  3. Taskin
    Posted January 20, 2018 at 8:36 am | Permalink

    Wow! Those are so cool!

  4. David Coxill
    Posted January 20, 2018 at 8:38 am | Permalink

    I bet they don’t taste very nice.

  5. Randy Bessinger
    Posted January 20, 2018 at 8:56 am | Permalink

    Super pics!

  6. Posted January 20, 2018 at 9:36 am | Permalink

    Another day, another jaw-dropping set of photos… Thanks Lou and Jerry!

  7. Posted January 20, 2018 at 9:38 am | Permalink

    Ooooh, my. Lou, that is totally cool. A great find and wonderful pictures.
    Given their display, do you think they are using warning colors?

    • Posted January 21, 2018 at 6:19 pm | Permalink

      Mark, I was back in the field yesterday and did not see your question until today, sorry. I think these colors are meant to startle predators. They might not be honest signals. The brightest colors are hidden when the katydid is not alarmed, and this makes me suspect that the insect is not poisonous. But it can do real damage with those big jaws, so maybe the warning colors aren’t entirely bluff.

  8. W.Benson
    Posted January 20, 2018 at 9:55 am | Permalink

    Hum, red, blue, and yellow. Lou, aren’t those the colors of the Ecuadoran flag? And the flag bears an emblem with a white snow-covered mountain in the middle. Moncheca ecuadorensis? I hear the politics of rainforest conservation beckoning.

    • Posted January 21, 2018 at 6:19 pm | Permalink

      Good idea, I hadn’t thought of that!

  9. Marlene Zuk
    Posted January 20, 2018 at 10:13 am | Permalink

    So gorgeous! What about the call? Did they produce any sounds?

    • Posted January 21, 2018 at 6:20 pm | Permalink

      It never called during the time that I had it.

  10. jaxkayaker
    Posted January 20, 2018 at 10:15 am | Permalink

    Great pics, Lou! Thanks for sharing. What kind of camera/lens do you use?

    I’m very curious about the additional news. Are you hiring? (A guy can dream.)

    • jaxkayaker
      Posted January 20, 2018 at 5:53 pm | Permalink

      I just noticed the camera type and lens are listed after the last photo. If that was there when I asked, I apologize for not reading more carefully.

      • Posted January 21, 2018 at 6:22 pm | Permalink

        Jaxkayaker, the news is exciting but has to wait a bit…

        The camera information was there, but I’d be happy to give more details if something is not clear. I am enamored with focus-stacking!

  11. Cate Plys
    Posted January 20, 2018 at 11:03 am | Permalink

    These pictures were just spectacular. I rarely comment on the wildlife photos, even though it’s one of my favorite parts of WEIT–but just to be clear, I and many others are reading/looking at these, just like the science posts!

  12. Paul Doerder
    Posted January 20, 2018 at 12:07 pm | Permalink

    Wow! What a spectacular insect! Great use of macro.

  13. mikeyc
    Posted January 20, 2018 at 12:44 pm | Permalink


  14. Posted January 20, 2018 at 1:48 pm | Permalink

    Very striking.

  15. Michael Hart
    Posted January 20, 2018 at 2:10 pm | Permalink

    My wife says these katydids with big jaws are mimics that call other katydids by mimicking their songs, and then eat those that respond. Maybe Lou knows if that’s the case with this one?

    • Posted January 21, 2018 at 6:24 pm | Permalink

      I know that many conehead katydids are predators, but I don’t know anything about what these eat, except that it did munch some flowers.

  16. Posted January 20, 2018 at 2:23 pm | Permalink

    Great work, Lou. Thank you for sharing them, Jerry.

    I wonder if Lou has discovered a new species, one that will bear his name.

  17. Heather Hastie
    Posted January 20, 2018 at 2:35 pm | Permalink

    What a gorgeous critter! Quite spectacular!

  18. rickflick
    Posted January 20, 2018 at 2:45 pm | Permalink

    I can’t think of what to say. Great imaging. Great biology.

  19. mikeyc
    Posted January 20, 2018 at 4:17 pm | Permalink

    A question for Lou; what is that protuberance between the antennae?

    • Posted January 21, 2018 at 6:28 pm | Permalink

      I don’t really know what it is, but it appears to have two simple white ocelli, one on either side, presumably for sensing light and dark. There is a third simple (ie non-compound) ocellus in the middle of the head, facing forward. This group of katydids generally has a protuberance or cone there.

  20. Don Mackay
    Posted January 20, 2018 at 4:28 pm | Permalink

    Alas, the katydid found in NZ is all-green, though as an inquisitive kid I was never bitten by one, so maybe more friendly.

  21. Mark R.
    Posted January 20, 2018 at 6:08 pm | Permalink

    Wow, what a cool katydid. Reminds me of the Minnesota Vikings colors. They should make it their sub-mascot. 🙂

  22. Posted January 20, 2018 at 7:00 pm | Permalink

    I never knew katydids could be so colorful. I’ve also never thought about insects’ genitalia being used to distinguish species.

  23. Warren Johnson
    Posted January 20, 2018 at 7:39 pm | Permalink

    The coloration is amazing. What is known about it’s origin. Is it’s adaptive value suspected or confirmed?

    • Posted January 21, 2018 at 6:30 pm | Permalink

      The flash of bright red and yellow and blue when disturbed probably scares many predators, but we don’t know the details.

  24. ploubere
    Posted January 20, 2018 at 10:18 pm | Permalink

    Excellent photos!

  25. Tim Harris
    Posted January 21, 2018 at 6:44 am | Permalink

    Those are by far the most spectacular bush crickets I have ever seen. Thank you.

    • Posted January 21, 2018 at 6:31 pm | Permalink

      My pleasure; thanks to Jerry for airing them.

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