Tucuras, langostas, and saltamontes are names in Argentina for what we in North America call grasshoppers (order Orthoptera, superfamily Acridoidea). Argentina certainly has its share of species, some of which can only be described as “gigantes”! During my first week out in the field at my home base here in western Buenos Aires Province, I encountered the hefty-bodied female in the photo below and was immediately reminded of a similar-looking individual I had photographed in neighboring Córodoba Province during my March 2011 visit. Both had short but well-developed wing pads that at first suggested they might be mature nymphs of an incredibly large species. However, when I noted both were females I decided they likely represented adults of some type of lubber grasshopper (family Romaleidae), many of which—especially the females—are brachypterous (short-winged) and heavy-bodied as adults. A little searching revealed that both belong to the genus Elaeochlora, each looking very much like the species pictured on an Argentine postal stamp and identified as E. viridis (update 9 Mar 2012 – Sam Heads has identified these as Staleochlora viridicata).
Getting at least a genus name for these individuals then prompted me to go back to photographs I had taken last year of other types of grasshoppers. One of these, Eutropidacris cristata, is truly one of the largest grasshoppers I have ever seen (update 9 Mar 12 – Sam Heads notes that Eutropidacris is now a synonym of Tropidacris). This individual was seen in a soybean field in the northern Argentina province of Chaco. These insects, known in Argentina as “La tucura quebrachera,” apparently occur in outbreak numbers periodically and, understandably owing to their monstrous size, generate a lot of attention. In Brazil the sepcies is known as “gafanhoto-do-coqueiro” (coconut tree grasshopper),
One of the more colorful grasshoppers I have seen in Argentina is Chromacris speciosa. The individual below was photographed last March in eastern Córdoba Province, also on soybean. It’s tempting to presume that the green and yellow coloration has a cryptic function, but apparently the nymphs of this species are brightly colored red and black and have the habit of aggregating on foliage. This is classic aposematism (warning coloration) to indicate chemical protection from predation, so perhaps there is a similar function to the adult coloration as well.
Copyright © Ted C. MacRae 2012