THINKING COLOR

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Defensive Color

The chirping of grasshoppers is a ubiquitous sound in the North American summer. These tiny flying insects not only provide the audible soundtrack to the warmest months of the year but are also a crucial link in the food chain. However there is one type of grasshopper that has used color to ensure that it doesn't become a snack.

Aposematism describes a family of anti-predator devices which prey animals have developed over time to ward off, or warn predators that consuming the animal may not be pleasant.  Aposematism is often associated with a brilliant color scheme that tells potential aggressors that the animal they are thinking about snacking on is equipped with defensive characteristics.

  

The dactylotum bicolor grasshopper, also known as a painted grasshopper or barber pole grasshopper, is one such example of this survival strategy. This particular species of grasshopper did not develop wings and is unable to fly leaving it vulnerable to all sorts of predators. Even more unfortunate for this little insect it has no natural defense mechanisms. In order to overcome these deficiencies the bug developed a colorful scheme to mimic other animals such as stink bugs and velvet ants which predators have learned not to eat.

   

Although the painted grasshopper is not exactly cute it’s colorful defensive markings are quite fun to look at.

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