Ripipteryx mopana, a new species discovered in Belize. Photo by: Sam W. Heads, Steven J. Taylor.
Scientists have discovered the first ever insect in the Ripipterygidae family in Belize. Measuring only 5 millimeters (0.19 inches), the tiny insect uses its powerful legs to leap away from predators much like a grasshopper. In fact, the new species is in the Orthoptera order which includes grasshoppers.
“Belize is famous for its biodiversity, although very little is known about the insect fauna of the southern part of the country. This is particularly true of the Orthoptera,” said entomologist and lead author on the paper, Sam Heads, said in a press release. “The new insect is the first representative of it’s family ever to be found in Belize. Given the amount of high quality habitats in the region, it isn’t really surprising that new species still await discovery, especially in the less-explored areas.”
Researchers named the new species Ripipteryx mopana after the Mopan tribe, members of the Mayans, who inhabit the region. Although they discovered only one specimen of the new insect, they note in the paper that it was unique enough to immediately describe a new species.
“Very little is known about the biology of this genus and its closest relatives” adds Heads. “The group as a whole is rather poorly studied and even though we continue to document new species, we still have a long way to go”.
Scientists discover nearly 20,000 species annually, many of them in tropical rainforests and most of them insects.
CITATION: Heads SW, Taylor SJ (2012) A new species of Ripipteryx from Belize with a key to the species of the Scrofulosa Group (Orthoptera, Ripipterygidae). ZooKeys 169: 1-9. doi: 10.3897/zookeys.169.2531
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