The katydid is certainly one of the most fascinating insects on the planet.
Katydids are bush crickets, a sort of grasshopper with long antennae. There are many reasons to admire them, not least their fantastic range of shapes, spines and bumps. Some closely resemble leaves, while others look like extras from Alien. Many katydid species have big wings, but are useless at flying, and big legs, but are useless at jumping. These features are for camouflage, rather than functional.
Katydids are very good at fooling other creatures. Queensland’s Small Hooded Katydid was only described scientifically in 2010, despite having been there for millennia, because of its excellent camouflage. Its leaf-like markings include not only veins, but also spots to mimic leaf damage and disease.
Another Australian species, the Spotted Katydid, is the first documented case of ‘acoustic mimicry used in an aggressive manner’. They can imitate 22 different species of cicada in order to lure and eat them.
The chirp of a 165 million-year-old katydid has been reconstructed from a fossil. Studying the shape and size of the wings and comparing those structures with those of modern katydids, enabled paleoacoustic experts at the University of Leicester to recreate the insects’ sound – a chirp from the Jurassic.
Another katydid record is held by the Tuberous bush cricket (Platycleis affinis) which has the largest testicles in relation to body weight of any animal – 14% of body mass. Rather than produce more sperm per mating episode, these extra large testes allow males to transfer relatively small ejaculates to a greater number of females. The male spends as much as 40% of his body weight producing these sperm packets which, along with his genetic material, contain protein for the female to feast on and use in the development of her eggs. After mating the male, unsurprisingly, is observed to ‘graze avidly’.
The katydid derives its name from the male’s repetitive call, which sounds a bit like ‘katydid, katy-didn’t.’
Katydids – or nsenene as they are known there – are a delicacy in Uganda.
Whether the katydid is really a musician or not, of course, depends upon the critic, but of his fame there can be no question.
Katydids' ears are on their legs.
There are about 2,000 different species of katydid living in the Amazon.
Female katydids will not mate with males unless they begin the courtship ritual with a song.