Unfortunately due to inclement weather field trips have been minimal over the last week, but we finally managed to get out to the research site on Sunday and we found something we certainly were not expecting to find, pink grasshoppers, not one but at least six all in an early nymph stages as the wings have not yet developed. So far we have only found these at one small locality within our research site, all the other we have found have been the normal colour morphs.
We believe these funky individuals to be a rare morph of the common meadow grasshopper Chorthippus parallelus. So what is so special about a pink grasshopper? How many of you have seen a pink grasshopper in the wild?
I certainly hadn’t and didn’t even know you could have a pink grasshopper, let alone actually see one for real in the wild! They do exist but rarely make it to adulthood as they are easily picked off by predators as they are so conspicuous against the green foliage compared to the normal green and brownish morphs which is one of the reasons they are hardly ever seen, the other reason I will explain below.
So why are they pink?
It is called erythrism an unusual and little-understood genetic mutation caused by a recessive gene similar to that which affects albino animals. This mutation results in one of two things happening or even a combination of the two; a reduce or even absence of the normal pigment and/or the excessive production of other pigments, in this case red which results in pink morphs.
Although it was first discovered in 1887 in a katydid species, it is extremely rare to see these pink morphs so you can imagine our delight at finding so many in one area and they probably all have the same parents both carrying the recessive gene. All the individuals we found were nymphs and a couple of things can now happen if they make it to adulthood, they can lose the pink colouring altogether, they may stay pink or even be a variation between the two! We will be checking back on these individuals throughout the coming weeks and months to see what happens.
We are hoping for much better weather in the coming days so we can get back out and document more of the flora and fauna, fingers crossed!
This article was written by Victoria Hillman for Explorers Journal. Victoria Hillman is a National Geographic Explorer and Research Director for the Transylvanian Wildlife Project overseeing research on carnivores and biodiversity of Europe’s last great wilderness.