• John Mendelsohn

If only ……. we had made a note of it

One thing biologists often curse is the lack of historical data, especially information recorded methodically on when certain events take place: When last were so many guineafowl chicks produced, how many years since the last major fire or heavy frost, and when was it that mopane worms last reached plague proportions?

Another, recent example: Each time there is an outbreak of Armoured Crickets (aka koringkrieke, Gobabis prawns, Acanthoplus discoidalis) we wonder when the last outbreak occurred. And, how often outbreaks happen?

Those are the questions that circulated Ongava these past few months. No one knows. And you can bet that despite all our curses, none of us will remember to record that these feisty crickets were all over Ongava from January to May in the year 2020. (Perhaps, this little note will be picked up decades from now by someone searching the archives of the web? “Aha”, they will say.)

And another thing: Why do these crickets (who delight in the taking their mates to supper, with just one, fatter cricket returning from the dinner), hang upside down at night, often with a glutinous mass protruding from their bums? Turns out that these bulbous protuberances (called spermatophores) are for reproduction. Each spermatophore contains a packet of sperm and another of food, the former being attached to the back (genitalia) end of a female and the latter for a feast on her front end. How is that for strategy?

Repulsive cannibalism, disgusting gluey protrusions, ugliness personified ….. we often proclaim. But you must hand it to them: they have character, some sexy tactics, and they give us lots to think about.

Bateman, Philip; Ferguson, J. W. H. (2004). Male mate choice in the Botswana armoured ground cricket Acanthoplus discoidalis (Orthoptera: Tettigoniidae; Hetrodinae). Can, and how, do males judge female mating history? Journal of Zoology. 262 (3): 305–309.