I visited another bug-hunter on my trip to Cairns last weekend and he naturally introduced me to the wildlife in his garden. That garden nestles into rainforest which spreads right up the range behind Cairns, so it’s quite different from my suburban dry-tropics garden here in Townsville and has quite different beasties living in it.
This one was completely new to me – and to him, I think – and working out what it was and what it was doing had to wait until I could consult Graeme Cocks. Between us we found the answers.
It is a Raspy Cricket, Gryllacrididae, Xanthogryllacris sp., a whole new family to me. Their closest relations are crickets and katydids – Graeme’s page shows how they fit into the larger picture.
They are nocturnal and normally sleep all day in a sheltered spot between leaves, and we must have disturbed this one doing just that. Coincidentally, it has just moulted, as we can see from the colour (many insects are very pale immediately after moulting, e.g. this cockroach) and the long threads emerging from its shoulders are the remnants of its trachea, its breathing tubes, which pull inside out during the moult. (The trachea are external surfaces even though they are inside the body, just like the skin inside our own ears or nose.)
It wasn’t very happy at being exposed. Those gaping jaws are definitely a threat display, and the raised wings are probably meant to be scary, too, though I just think they’re beautiful.