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Troll-Haired Mystery Bug Found in Suriname

It may or may not be a new species, but this crazy-haired bug is an eye popper of a planthopper.

Trond Larsen was lucky enough to notice and photograph the tiny insect—about five millimeters long—during an international expedition of field biologists to the mountainous region of southeastern Suriname in 2012. (Related: “Remote Rain Forest Expedition Finds 60 New Species.”)

planthopper picture
The young planthopper’s crazy hair. Photograph by Trond Larsen

It was a quick trick done “with much difficulty, as they jump away very fast,” said Larsen, of Conservation International’s Rapid Assessment Program (RAP).

That’s also why Larsen wasn’t able to collect a specimen of the tufted bug, which is needed to compare it to other insects and figure out if it’s a known species.

Another thing that makes identification tough is that the planthopper was in the nymph stage of development, which means that it looks very different from adults.

Some insects undergo simple metamorphosis (sometimes called incomplete or gradual metamorphosis), meaning they molt into a slightly larger nymph and then finally into an adult with complete wings, according to Leeanne Alonso of the nonprofit Global Wildlife Conservation, who was also part of the expedition. Alonso noted that the young insect’s “wing buds” are visible in the photograph.

Paging Don King

As for that spectacular fountain of Don King plumage, the scientists say it’s a waxy secretion many planthoppers excrete from their abdomen, which may protect the bugs against predators and parasites.

You’d think something like that would attract, not distract. But predators of this insect would be very tiny, and grabbing those waxy tufts might be challenging—or the hairs might even break off, like a lizard’s tail, letting the insect live another day.

In addition to the odd planthopper, the scientists also found an incredible array of biodiversity in the Suriname rain forest, collecting data on 1,378 species. (See pictures of rain forests.)

“It’s one of my favorite places on Earth,” said Alonso, though she notes that gold mining is threatening the pristine nature of the area.

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Comments

  1. Diane Kniskern
    Virginia, USA
    June 27, 10:32 pm

    https://m.facebook.com/story.php?story_fbid=10204148953465280&id=1269324623
    This little guy is living on our deck in coastal VA. Perhaps a stowaway on a naval vessel docked in Norfolk??

  2. Liz Langley
    April 25, 11:07 am

    I think it’s cool that so many people have had sightings of insects like these. I want to see one! :)

  3. Charlie
    Cancún Quintana Roo México
    April 24, 5:57 pm

    Encontré este insecto en la selva de Cancún.

  4. lilly moore
    milton ky
    February 28, 2:27 pm

    that looks weird

  5. Glaufx Garland
    February 10, 4:13 pm

    funny … however, even if we don’t know it yet, after all these nuclear tests and other experiments of stupid scientists we have to wait for the unexpected 1000% soon -I am not a prophet -simply logical Greek -as Anaxagoras said DO NOT BE AMAZED IF YOU SEE SOMETHING NEW there are millions of things that we don’t know and millions of things that we will never see and none of these are new.

  6. Darryl Gartland
    otres beach cambodia
    January 11, 5:44 am

    Hi I was just on a island in cambodia called koh tah kiev only 28sq2 in size and I seen 3 different types of this specimen one in brightgreen which I took a photo off, I also seen one in red and brown like this and also one that was brown spots and a lighte shade of brown surrounding . There was a variety of insects on this island I found which I really think are unique the problem is the island has been bought by chinese investors and are planning to and already started to cut the jungle down to make way for tourist and casinos etc … there were flying lizards giant hornets , spiders that resembled a broken piece of twig and moths and butterflys bigger than my hand ! There are only approx 20 people that live on the entire island and did not know or dont go into the jungle as I did ..if this is a new species this particilar place would be perfect for research giving its size and the few people whom reside there ..before it is lost to society

  7. Auriberta Alves do Nascimento Campos Silva
    BRASIL
    December 15, 2013, 2:04 pm

    INTERESSES
    DESASTRES NTURAIS, CIVILIZAÇÕES, ANIMAIS , EXTINÇÃO, ENERGIA NUCLEAR. ELEMENTOS DE TERRAS RARAS. E O QUE PUDER SER DIVULGADO.

  8. kelly
    ireland
    December 15, 2013, 5:46 am

    Whoa! Never been a bug lover but this little critter might just change my mind its amazing looking!

  9. LORDSOTH709
    U.S
    December 12, 2013, 4:49 pm

    What the HELL is that!

  10. Liz Langley
    December 3, 2013, 9:54 am

    Looking at posted photos and amazed to see that these little creatures seem to come in different colors (unless lighting/filters make them look different?)
    If they were toys I would collect them all. :) Thanks for posting!

    @jamie Ha! I hope you got a picture!

  11. James Jay Shults
    Sevierville, TN.
    December 2, 2013, 5:42 pm

    The first time I saw one I was surprised by its tail as well.

    https://www.facebook.com/photo.php?fbid=10151020780920772&l=c854693ba4

  12. jamie
    vancouver
    November 29, 2013, 2:59 pm

    My neighbour has one of those growing out of his ear.

  13. Ahmad Mujtaba Khan
    Pakistan
    November 28, 2013, 7:23 am

    Very unique, colorful, hope it would not be a harmful insect. Good effort by the inventors.

  14. Michael Wilson
    Cardiff, UK
    November 28, 2013, 5:45 am

    This is most likely the nymph of a Tropiduchidae plant hopper. The tuft of thread is composed of wax. In the adults the wax may be used by the female to cover eggs.

  15. Prem Kumar Gutty
    Delhi
    November 27, 2013, 11:07 pm

    Strange creature. But, it is true that there are many unexplained facets of life on earth. Modern science has become too straight jacketed and hence is moving towards monotony.
    I am an natural photographer by hobby.I have some amazing collection of pictures on plants and flowers. They are posted on my URL
    https://www.google.com/+PremKumarGutty

    I have many more in my system and would love to do a photo literary book to some one if I get a sponsor.

  16. CAMILO SENIOR
    Cali Colombia
    November 27, 2013, 12:29 pm

    I felt like when I saw one of these in san cipriano, in the Colombian Pacific. I invite you to see my photos!
    https://www.facebook.com/photo.php?fbid=457304587656892&set=a.457297904324227.106399.100001320634217&type=3&theater

  17. Liz Langley
    November 26, 2013, 1:10 pm

    Thank you to everyone who is sending in pics and videos and offering so many takes on this wild little insect! :)

  18. tromomo
    brazil
    November 24, 2013, 8:46 pm

    Ready for Rio’s Carnival.

  19. Ella
    Melbourne, Australia
    November 24, 2013, 8:29 am

    I see these little guys all the time in Melbourne. They are so cute in real life, they look like tiny frogs with crazy hair. I have no idea what they are called but they can’t be that new because I’ve seen them around my garden ever since I was a kid.

  20. MichaelM
    November 24, 2013, 12:35 am

    Same nymph found also 3 years ago in Guyana.

    http://www.flickr.com/photos/rainforests/5159347350/
    planthopper nymph (Nogodinidae)

  21. mehnaz
    Guwahati, Assam, India
    November 23, 2013, 11:10 am

    Mesmerising creation of God….

  22. Sadat
    Assam, India
    November 23, 2013, 11:06 am

    Wonderful and beautiful unique bug….Thnks to Liza for posting this picture..

  23. Bill mc Canners
    Britain
    November 23, 2013, 4:07 am

    It lookes like a Morgellon Hybrid insect, maybe a new species has risen by the effect of all the spraying with the whole Geo Engineering going on. Looks interesting but scary too.

  24. Corolyn Clay
    Memphis,Tn
    November 22, 2013, 10:35 pm

    This looks like a hoax to me. Being an artist, I see a construct. those hairs look too much like monofilliment and I have seen glass beads that look like the body. Are you sure this is for real?
    I do know a thing or two about insects having grown up with a father who collected and even discovered a new species. So am I seeing something real or not?!!! Lovely if it is.

  25. Malcolm
    Scotland
    November 22, 2013, 4:13 pm

    Have those scientists been plying with genetics (DNA) again, behave yourselves lol.

  26. Mary
    Michigan, US
    November 22, 2013, 3:50 pm
  27. Mary
    Michigan, US
    November 22, 2013, 3:47 pm

    I captured a picture of this same bug when I was in the Osa Peninsula of Costa Rica this past August! I didn’t know that it could be a new species! lol exciting :)

  28. Liz Langley
    November 22, 2013, 1:13 pm

    @Randall Friedman
    The fuzz is on the back end – you can see the eye on the right in this photo. :)
    Big Hello to BC! (One of my favorite places!)

  29. Milton Camuyrano
    BERTIOGA - LITORAL DE SP - BRASIL
    November 22, 2013, 11:58 am

    É um belo exemplo de animal moderno. Usou fibra ótica para melhorar o penteado.

  30. Liz Langley
    November 22, 2013, 11:58 am

    Thank you to everyone for sharing comments and also your pictures and videos – love looking at these!

    @Ravi Thakoer My understanding is that they can say it’s in the nymph stage because it looks similar to other insects in that stage of development, for example, the smaller wing ‘buds’ that aren’t quite mature wings yet. :)

  31. Maria
    Michigan
    November 22, 2013, 11:28 am

    Very cool hairdo

  32. Elsa J Lucas
    S. Jersey USA
    November 22, 2013, 11:19 am

    I agree with alisha. It does look like the cross between a seahorse/shrimp. Love it! Envy those who have such experiences and take such great photos. Could be a discobug.

  33. Ronald Baró
    NYC USA
    November 22, 2013, 10:57 am

    I’m sorry but this insect looks like a toy. It does not look like a real insect.

  34. Norman
    Taipei, Taiwan
    November 22, 2013, 10:55 am

    We’ve got similar cicadas in Taiwan. Please look at the photos on my FB (I’m not sure how to post photos here).

    https://www.facebook.com/normguan/posts/10152026814738817?comment_id=29545865&offset=0&total_comments=7&notif_t=share_comment

  35. Lisa Taylor
    United States
    November 22, 2013, 10:37 am

    The little fella is quit interesting. I can definitely see a resemblance of two creatures. I see a grasshopper and a shrimp but where does the hair come from? I would like to see more on this one. Thanks for sharing.

  36. Liz Langley
    November 22, 2013, 10:28 am

    Glad so many people are intrigued by this incredible little creature!

    @Steven David Johnson Fantastic pic!!

  37. Qusay Bitar
    Istanbul,Turkey
    November 22, 2013, 10:17 am

    this bug was also spotted in Malaysia, here is a video i shot of it with several other species

  38. Guso
    Venezuela
    November 22, 2013, 10:00 am

    Just attach a hook and you have a nice fishing lure

  39. carlos
    new york
    November 22, 2013, 8:24 am

    Good pic

  40. John Barker
    Illinois
    November 22, 2013, 8:21 am

    Forget the damn bug, well at least put it on hold (izzat thing fer real?), I want to go on safar/expedition with liz!

  41. Ravi Thakoer
    November 22, 2013, 8:11 am

    How do you know that this “…Mystery Bug…”
    is “…in the nymph stage of development…”
    if you still need to “…figure out if it’s a known species…”
    ?

  42. Pedro
    Bolivia
    November 22, 2013, 8:03 am

    Awesome picture, there must be millions of species yet to be discovered! Carry on with the great work beloved explorers!

  43. Fanny Dimasruhin
    Indonesia
    November 22, 2013, 7:52 am

    It’s amazing picture…

  44. danielmclion
    Amsterdam Zuidoost
    November 22, 2013, 7:11 am

    Cannot help it, but was it found on April 1, 2012?

  45. Steven David Johnson
    Virginia
    November 22, 2013, 7:00 am

    I photographed a planthopper nymph for the first time this past summer in Costa Rica. To Get a proper ID, I googled “fiber optic insect.” That did the trick!

    http://www.flickr.com/photos/stevendavidjohnson/10046356456/

  46. Gracie
    London
    November 22, 2013, 6:58 am

    Wow! Very alien.

  47. Mady
    United Kingdom
    November 22, 2013, 6:15 am

    it doesnt look waxy to me – it looks like a tail! :D go bugs!

  48. Les
    UK
    November 22, 2013, 5:51 am

    It’s a lesser spotted Rectotuftus fluffybum

  49. Hedda
    November 22, 2013, 5:25 am

    i saw this insect for along time ago in Tunisia so it s not a new discovery

  50. serdar
    Sivas
    November 22, 2013, 4:11 am

    Wonderful

  51. Steven Gehner
    Hilversum, The Netherlands
    November 22, 2013, 3:53 am

    I filmed a waxy tuft insect like that in Mulu National Park on Borneo.

    https://www.facebook.com/photo.php?v=124940740895985&set=vb.100001401801458&type=3&theater

    Can I name it Steven

  52. mr. pozi
    malaysia
    November 22, 2013, 3:38 am

    like a plastic hair.

  53. Siang Kok
    Singapore
    November 22, 2013, 3:33 am

    Amazing find. There ought to be more such facinating bugs and insects waiting to be discovered.

  54. Suktana
    India
    November 22, 2013, 3:31 am

    Amazing!!

    I have shot bit similar bug/insect in the year 2010. It hops so fast that, I wasn’t able to take a perfect picture of it. Have a look at this link…
    http://www.flickr.com/photos/sukscorpio/10990719855/

  55. Udhaya
    india
    November 22, 2013, 3:23 am

    amazing…good job

  56. Nicky Bay
    Singapore
    November 22, 2013, 3:11 am

    Heya Liz

    The “crazy hair” has many variants, from short stubbly ones to messed up bushy ones and even those that look like fireworks. We see quite a lot of these planthoppers here in this gallery!

    http://www.flickr.com/photos/nickadel/sets/72157631558329704/

  57. Lissariel
    italy
    November 22, 2013, 3:09 am

    Wonderful planet creatures…. seem a some kind of “extraterrestrial” creature …

  58. sameh
    Egypt
    November 22, 2013, 3:07 am

    فعلا سبحان الله العالم مليء بالعجائب

  59. Nicolas
    France
    November 22, 2013, 2:57 am

    What the hell is this :D

  60. ted
    November 22, 2013, 2:34 am

    I will give it a name, Surinamis Jordanis! hehe

  61. Barbara
    Temple Hills, MD
    November 22, 2013, 1:59 am

    Almost all planthopper and leafhopper nymps have those waxy “tails” at that stage of development. That is not at all unusual. I’m quite surprised that such a fuss is being made over that one characteristic.

  62. Randall Friedman
    Vancouver, BC.
    November 22, 2013, 1:57 am

    Great photograph! Perfect focus, The leaf has beautiful texture. Which end is the head?

  63. Espella Hui
    Hong Kong
    November 22, 2013, 1:51 am

    And I spotted a similar bug like this one on several occasions at the peak in Hong Kong https://www.facebook.com/photo.php?fbid=10150179469202177&set=a.10150121444257177.320259.528962176&type=3&theater

  64. Jason Livingston
    San Diego
    November 22, 2013, 1:43 am

    Looks like a nice fishing lure.

  65. Sarita
    AR
    November 22, 2013, 1:30 am

    Looks like one of the Dr. Suess book character’s!! :)

  66. Davison Matimba
    Harare,Zimbabwe
    November 22, 2013, 1:26 am

    Good picture

  67. beno
    algeria
    November 22, 2013, 1:13 am

    يَزِيدُ فِي الْخَلْقِ مَا يَشَاءُ إِنَّ اللَّهَ عَلَىٰ كُلِّ شَيْءٍ

  68. Jose Iván castillo
    Costa Rica, Heredia
    November 22, 2013, 1:07 am

    I am from Sarapiqui, Heredia in Costa Rica and here we have a very similar specie same size maybe diferent color!

  69. Jennifer
    Massachusetts
    November 22, 2013, 12:47 am
  70. jhong
    Philippines
    November 22, 2013, 12:41 am

    That insect isn’t new in my place.. But we have it in here all white in color..

  71. Jihane
    November 22, 2013, 12:36 am

    subhanallah, very pretty

  72. Jose
    November 22, 2013, 12:35 am

    What kind of pokemon is this?

  73. Jason Scarman
    Australia
    November 22, 2013, 12:31 am

    Looks like a leaf-hopper nymph. I find them in my yard from time to time.

  74. Luis ZP
    Costa Rica
    November 22, 2013, 12:28 am

    I found the same species, in an islan in my country (Costa Rica) in Pacific ocean, Isla Del Caño

  75. Usama
    Pakistan
    November 22, 2013, 12:28 am

    Yeah ! Innovative !

  76. Ella
    Romania
    November 22, 2013, 12:26 am
  77. Joshua
    FL
    November 22, 2013, 12:22 am

    Very cool looking bug, lol Don King of the bug world :P

  78. mayada
    jordan
    November 21, 2013, 3:04 pm

    منظر جميل ورائع جدا العالم مليء بالجمال

  79. Liz Langley
    November 20, 2013, 9:51 pm

    Agreed on all counts – and thanks to the field scientists who go out and do all that hard work so we can see such amazing things. :)

  80. Alex
    Tucson, Arizona
    November 20, 2013, 6:05 pm

    Awesome picture!

  81. steve from minecraft
    Ga
    November 20, 2013, 3:01 pm

    this is cool

  82. Favas Kallayi
    India
    November 20, 2013, 10:16 am

    Really amazing………!

  83. edwin
    nairobi
    November 19, 2013, 10:24 pm

    good work guys

  84. Lynn Easton
    Durban South Africa
    November 19, 2013, 10:18 pm

    My goodness we have so much to learn about our earth it astounds us constantly with new and interesting offers of beauty to delight us
    Who would have thought of a 70 hair styled bug intriguing

  85. alisha
    November 19, 2013, 9:33 pm

    this is soo cool looking its like a sea horse/ shrimp!!