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The Pink Grasshopper – No, It’s Not a Cocktail

Grasshopper nymph on a fern frond by Victoria Hillman
Grasshopper nymph on a fern frond. Photo by Victoria Hillman.

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. Follow the expedition here on Explorers Journal through updates from the team.

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Image of the 125 Anniversary logo

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.

Grasshopper trying to hide by Victoria Hillman
Grasshopper trying to hide. Photo by Victoria Hillman.
Later stage nymph by Victoria Hillman
Later stage nymph. Photo by Victoria Hillman.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

1.5cm nymph by Victoria Hillman
1.5cm nymph. Photo by Victoria Hillman.

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.

Nymph from above illustrating their conspicuousness against the green leaves by Victoria Hillman
Nymph from above illustrating their conspicuousness against the green leaves. Photo by Victoria Hillman.

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!

 

NEXT: Returning to Transylvania: Europe’s Last Great Wilderness

Comments

  1. Kyle glass
    Clayton ga
    August 2, 3:23 pm

    We found one and my daughter is bringing it home to spread the gene, thought it would be cool sence we live on farm where there are thousands

  2. Horace Sweat
    Trenton, SC
    July 1, 7:26 pm

    Just saw one of these today in Trenton SC Couldn’t believe my eyes so of course we consulted the Google and ran across this article. Thank you for all of the information. Respectfully

  3. Catherine
    Southern Highlands, NSW, Australia
    March 31, 3:00 am

    I had one of those on my windscreen driving to work today… A very brave fellow… Was hanging in, doing what seemed like Yoga throwing a leg straight, wind in his “hair”. Then woof disapeared…A great sight if not a little distracting when driving!

  4. Sara
    Spicewood, Texas, USA
    March 14, 9:01 pm

    While working in the flowerbed this morning my toddler son discovered a pink grasshopper. Imagine our surprise when what we thought was a red leaf turned into a jumping grasshopper. Her wings arent yet formed and she was certainly hiding behind whatever she could find. I would love to send a picture of her or two if u are interested! Blessed be~

  5. Leigh Gillard
    Central Hawke's Bay, New Zealand
    January 21, 5:10 am
  6. Leigh Gillard
    Central Hawke's Bay, New Zealand
    January 21, 5:07 am

    I found one of these in my garden yesterday (20 Jan 2014) I have a good photo of him/her too which I am happy to share if you tell me where to send it.

  7. Julie Muxworthy
    New Zealand
    January 10, 2:49 pm

    My friend found one of these pink grasshoppers on her peach tree in Mangawhai in New Zealand. Really quite amazing and I’m surprised to see so many reports of them across many countries! Anyone know how long they usually survive for in the wild? The colouring obviously wouldn’t assist camouflage, but I wondered if potential prey avoid them thinking they are poisonous ?

  8. Bec
    Sydney
    September 5, 2013, 8:27 pm

    Recent breeding experiments with pink katydids suggest that the colouring is not the result of erythrism. When bred in captivity, away from predators, more pink katydids are produced than green ones! http://bit.ly/1btosi6

  9. Peter
    Bulgaria
    August 26, 2013, 2:54 pm

    One was on my tent two days ago.. Was quite brave because it endured quite a prolonged photo-shoot.

  10. Priscilla A
    South east Louisiana
    August 7, 2013, 7:59 pm

    We found one moments ago in my yard! Wish I could post the pic! So amazing!! Never seem one and didn’t think it was real at first till it hopped! I am researching about them cause it is truly awesome that they have pink grasshoppers! Beautiful!!!

  11. Dave Lunt
    Hull, UK
    July 1, 2013, 2:01 pm

    Hi Victoria, I’ve studied Chorthippus parallelus a lot across europe and the pink forms are quite widespread from the south to the north. They aren’t the main form obviously but are locally very common here and there and at low frequency in most populations. Its just possible that they get predated more but I think it is mostly just down to what genes get inherited- maybe like human redheads. The pink forms are also found in other species too. They are very cool, nice photos by the way.

  12. här
    http://ave-sina.com/category/shori-zand/
    June 26, 2013, 6:19 pm

    Am i able to just say what a assistance to discover someone that really has learned what theyre speaking about over the internet. You definitely understand how to carry an issue to moderate and make this important. More people need to study this and also perceive this area of the story. We cant imagine youre not more trendy because you efficiently have the gift idea.

  13. Jennie
    Nelson NZ
    June 26, 2013, 6:38 am

    Wow how unusual – great to see your photo’s & the explanation about them. I have never seen one & probably never will,so thanks for letting us view your photos.

  14. Teddie Basco
    Haughton, La 71037
    June 25, 2013, 6:35 pm

    I found a pink grasshopper on my back porch this morning. Did not even know that they existed!

  15. Wang Xiaofei
    China,Chongqin City
    June 23, 2013, 2:11 am

    I’ve ever seen gray ones,and some ones with half pink and half green .

  16. Deepali Singh
    Lucknow
    June 22, 2013, 11:43 am

    Splendid!
    There’s always something or the other out there in the lap of nature…waiting to surprise us!!
    Beautiful explanation! Thanks Victoria! :)

  17. B
    KKK
    June 21, 2013, 2:15 pm

    OK. Wow. ☺

  18. Wisearsss
    United States
    June 21, 2013, 12:17 pm

    I saw a pink elephant once.

    I walked up to it.

    It flew away.

    With its ears

    True story

  19. Mark Napier
    Chicago
    June 21, 2013, 10:52 am

    But of course, leave it to the Transylvanian Wildlife Project to discover the Vampire Grasshopper (Chorthippus Infernalis)!

  20. Mehtab Hussain
    karachi
    June 19, 2013, 11:41 am

    Good site.for information ,

  21. le goff flo
    France
    June 19, 2013, 3:19 am

    I found one when I trekked in the Morvan’s natural park in France in 2010, I was so surprised and amazed.

  22. Ritu
    Singapore
    June 19, 2013, 12:51 am

    So beautiful! :)
    Here’s a pink dragonfly I photographed in Indonesia – http://instagram.com/p/KrMVLzREAT/
    Thanks!

  23. Chelsea Robinson
    United States
    June 18, 2013, 11:01 pm

    I remember finding a pink grasshopper once as a kid growing up in California. At the time, I was amazed, but I had completely forgotten about it until now. It’s cool to revisit that memory, and to learn what caused the shocking pigmentation!

  24. Dan
    June 18, 2013, 5:50 pm

    Amazing. Unless you find out something about grasshoppers, in which case you learn that this is seen regularly for many genera and species. Some species have it in almost all, others in 1 in a million.

  25. Karen Sutton
    Kent, UK
    June 18, 2013, 5:22 pm

    I saw and photographed a pink meadow grasshopper a few years ago on Erith Marshes in south-east London. It was magenta pink, very striking

  26. Paola Tirello
    Italy
    June 18, 2013, 5:00 pm

    I have seen a lot during the investigation for my thesis in North-east Italy…this is not so rare in the Genus Chorthppus spp.!!! :-D

  27. Barbara
    Southeast Georgia, USA
    June 18, 2013, 11:36 am

    I saw and photographed two adult pink katydids at my house a few years ago. They were around for a few days.

  28. Brian C
    Westminster
    June 17, 2013, 5:24 pm

    I have a photo of a pink moth. I had never seen any pink insects until then. This makes the second.

  29. Jesse Myers
    United States
    June 17, 2013, 11:35 am

    When I was a boy of eight in Saskatchewan we had a terrible drought which in turn led to a Biblical-scale infestation of grass hoppers. Among them were a rainbow assortment of strangely colored ones I’d never seen before or since.

  30. churchill
    university of benin ,benin city, edo state, nigeria
    June 17, 2013, 10:35 am

    that’s so amazing, nature and its wonders huh?

  31. Sintija
    Latvia
    June 17, 2013, 3:31 am

    I have seen it! :)
    In 2010 I took a picture of a pink grasshopper too :))
    And it really was a bit surprising to see a pink grasshopper!
    Thank you for the explanation!