Zoology

Parts of a Grasshopper



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Jiminy Cricket! If you thought the puppet's friend in the fairy tale "Pinocchio" was really a grasshopper, you were mistaken. It really was a cricket, and the two are different insects. This article will take a look at the grasshopper.

The grasshopper belongs to the order Orthoptera, in the suborder Caelifera. This amazing insect only eats plants but it has long, strong, back legs which enable it to leap twenty times the length of its own body.

The grasshopper's total lifespan is about one year, but it lives only one month in the adult stage. There are thousands of grasshopper species. These insects range in size from about 1 inch to 4.5 inches, and in color from brown, to grey to green. Their coloration is suited to blend into the background of their habitat.   

The body structure of the adult grasshopper is suited to its lifestyle. Like all insects, its body is divided into three parts: head, thorax and abdomen.

Head

The head is the first body region. On each side of its head, the grasshopper has a large compound eye, that is, each eye is made up of many smaller eyes, giving it a wide field of vision. It also has three simple eyes, which just look like dots. It has two segmented antennae, with which it can smell and feel. Grasshoppers have no ears. They hear with an organ called tympanum at the base of their abdomen. They have no teeth, but use two bony organs called mandibles to bite off and grind the plants they eat.

Thorax

Immediately behind the grasshopper's head is the second body region, the thorax, which has three segments. Attached to each segment is a pair of legs. The four front legs are short, slender and used for walking and holding prey. Near the base of each middle leg is a small hole called the thoracic spiracle which is used for breathing. The hind legs are large, muscular, jointed, and used for jumping.

Most grasshoppers have two pair of wings attached to the second and third segments of the thorax. The fore wings are longer and leathery. They protect the hind wings which are soft and membranous, and fold up like fans when the insect is not flying. They use their wings to make short flights, which allows them to look for food over a greater area.

Abdomen

The third body region is the abdomen, which contains eleven segments. The tympanum, the membrane which functions as an ear,  is located on the underside of the first segment. Along each side of the abdomen are tiny pinprick-like holes called spiracles, through which the grasshopper breathes in oxygen and exhales carbon dioxide.

The final section of the abdomen is smaller and contains the grasshopper's reproductive organs. The female has a short, strong structure called an ovipositor through which she can dig and lay her eggs. The final section of the male's abdomen is rounded.

Well, are you still wondering about the difference between grasshoppers and crickets? If you observe the habits of each insect closely, here's how you can tell. Grasshoppers are active during the day, while crickets prefer to come out at dusk and stay up all night. In addition, grasshoppers are strictly plant eaters while crickets like a little bit of animal material in their diet. Now you know, and it's quite possible that even Pinocchio was not able to tell the difference.

 References:

1. Animal Corner

Grasshoppers

Accessed: June 16, 2011

Website:  http://www.animalcorner.co.uk/insects/grasshoppers/grasshopper_about.html

2. bodyjunction.com

Grasshopper dissection

Accessed: June 17, 2011

Website:  http://www.biologyjunction.com/grasshopper_dissection.htm



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