Conservation news

Philippine crickets, held nameless in a Hawaii museum, are finally identified

L. Boracay image courtesy of Barbecho, et. al

  • Six new cricket species have been described from the Philippines, adding to a wealth of biodiversity endemic to this Southeast Asian archipelago.
  • Three of the new species were described from specimens collected six decades ago and stored at a museum in Hawaii. 
  • Researchers say more field surveys need to be done to see if the species still occur in the areas where they were first found.
  • They also call for further studies to uncover more of the as-yet-undescribed cricket species around the Philippines.

For six decades, 28 crickets from the Philippines have been stored in natural history collections at a U.S. museum, unidentified. Now, they finally have names, thanks to a new study.

The study, published in July in the journal Zootaxa, described six new species from five forested provinces in the Philippines. “Three of the six new species were identified from the entomological collections of the Bernice P. Bishop Museum in Hawaii. The three [others] from recent field collections,” study co-author Jessica Baroga-Barbecho, from the University of the Philippines, Los Baños, told Mongabay.

She said her mentor and co-author, Tony Robillard, loaned the type materials from the museum for her to examine during her research visit to the French National Museum of Natural History in Paris. A well-known orthopterist — an expert in the order of insects that includes crickets, grasshoppers and locusts — Robillard’s collaborations with museums around the world have helped make studies like this possible.

The researchers described the crickets from one of the three museum collections as Lebinthus hamus, found in Tarumpitao, a town in the western Philippine island province of Palawan. Its name comes from the Latin hamo, which means “hook,” in reference to a hook-shaped part of the genitalia in males of the species. It’s also described as having a yellowish face, with black bands running below its antennae and eyes, resembling a mustache. Its habitat is unknown and future expeditions will be necessary to discover its song, according to Robillard.

The Bernice Bishop Museum in Hawaii. Image by Stan Sheb via Wikimedia Commons (GNU Free Documentation Licence ver. 1.2)

The other two species described from the museum specimens are Lebinthus palaceus, from the Mount Empagatao region, and Lebinthus parvus, from Mount Balatukan, both in Misamis Oriental province on the southern island of Mindanao. L. palaceus is also named after the male’s genitalia, in this case shaped like a spade, or palaceus. It’s the larger of the museum-held specimens, with a black face and yellow markings. Its habitat and song are also unknown.

The third species described from the collection, L. parvus, is the smallest of its genus occurring in Mindanao. In the wild, it can be found in secondary low-elevation forests like those around Mount Kitanglad in Bukidnon province, and in San Francisco municipality in Agusan del Sur province.

Capping off the six new species are three newly collected specimens from forests in the Philippines. Among these species is Lebinthus magayon from Mount Malinao on the border between the eastern provinces of Albay and Camarines Sur. Of average size and an unremarkable dark brown to black, its most distinguishing feature is its face, which can be orange or golden brown.

The other two new cricket species are found in the central provinces of Aklan and Antique. Lebinthus boracay, named after Boracay Island where it’s found, has a faint but wide yellowish longitudinal band on its abdomen. Specimens were found in a secondary habitat on top of leaves in small plants in a private beach resort.

Lebinthus dannybaletei was found in Sibalom National Park in Antique and is named after Danilo “Danny” S. Balete, a well-known Filipino mammalogist and conservationist. The species is found in secondary forested areas where vegetation ranges from average to high, some in grasslands, and leaf litter.

Despite being common in green habitats — they can be found in gardens and parks as well as in primary forests — crickets remain relatively little-known, says Baroga-Barbecho. “Hence, I chose crickets for my [postgraduate] studies because there are not much studies about them, and it happened that my adviser who also studied crickets had a collaboration from the Paris museum,” she said.

Lebinthus magayon specimen shows the female in dorsal (A) and lateral (B) views. Specimen image courtesy of Baroga-Barbecho, et. al

The recent study also makes new locality records for other species from the genus Lebinthus: L. bitaeniatus, L. sanchezi, L. polillensis, L. puyos and L. luae. A taxonomic key, a distribution map, and an updated checklist of the genus in the Philippines are also provided. With these new findings, the authors say they hope to “contribute additional information on the diversity and taxonomy of these crickets in the country.”

They also echoed the conclusion of a 2017 study, cited in their paper, that emphasized the need to increase sampling to describe more unknown species from the genus Lebinthus. This will also expand the current understanding of the genus, one of the most diverse with 17 species found mostly in Southeast Asia. This wide distribution makes it ideal as a study organism, according to the authors.

The 2017 study says that “if these crickets are to be further used as model subjects for behavioral, evolutionary, and ecological studies,” a clear and accurate understanding of the taxonomy is needed.

Citations:

Baroga-Barbecho, J. B., Tan, M. K., Yap, S. A., & Robillard, T. (2020). Taxonomic study of Lebinthus Stål, 1877 (Orthoptera: Gryllidae: Eneopterinae) with description of six new species in the Philippines. Zootaxa, 4816(4), 401-438. doi:10.11646/zootaxa.4816.4.1

Robillard, T. & Desutter-Grandcolas, L. (2004). High-frequency calling in Eneopterinae crickets (Orthoptera, Grylloidea, Eneopteridae): adaptive radiation revealed by phylogenetic analysis. Biological Journal of the Linnean Society, 83(4), 577–584. doi:10.1111/j.1095-8312.2004.00417.x

Tan, M. K., Choi, J. & Shankar, N. (2017). Trends in new species discovery of Orthoptera (Insecta) from Southeast Asia. Zootaxa, 4238(1), 127-134. doi:10.11646/zootaxa.4238.1.10

Hofstede, H. M., Schöneich, S., Robillard, T., & Hedwig, B. (2015). Evolution of a communication system by sensory exploitation of startle behavior. Current Biology, 25(24), 3245-3252. doi:10.1016/j.cub.2015.10.064

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Banner image of Lebinthus boracay was found in a secondary habitat on top of leaves in small plants in a private beach resort in Boracay Island, Philippines. Image courtesy of Baroga-Barbecho, et. al

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