Insect expert's young son beats him to rediscovering endangered bug

June 26, 2014 by Sean Kirby, University of Derby
Professor Karim Vahed, with seven-year-old son Gabriel, who re-discovered the endangered Scaly Cricket before him.

A leading expert on crickets, looking to prove an endangered UK colony had survived the harsh winter, was beaten to finding the insects - by his seven-year-old son.

Professor of Entomology, Karim Vahed, from the University of Derby, was looking for evidence that a colony of Scaly Crickets (Pseudomogoplistes vicentae) had survived the winter's severe Atlantic storms.

The centimetre-long, wingless cricket is unusual, in that it lives among marine shingle and cobbles. It exists in only four known UK locations - Marloes in Pembrokeshire, Chesil Beach in Dorset, Branscombe in Devon and the Isle of Sark - and the species is officially classified as 'endangered'.

But it was Karim's seven-year-old son, Gabriel, who actually discovered that the small cricket had survived the winter bad weather, while on a trip with his father to the Pembrokeshire beaches.

Karim said: "I had been hunting among stones in a spot where the species had been found in previous surveys without much success. Then my son, Gabriel, called me over to a different area, saying 'there's three under this stone'. Further searching amongst the shingle and cobbles revealed the existence of a healthy population.

"I couldn't be prouder of him for beating me to the punch. If I produce a paper on the discovery, I might even have to share credit with him.

Scaly Cricket (Pseudomogoplistes vicentae).
"I'm not sure how the survived the . Judging from the debris on the beach, and the devastation caused to coastal villages and towns further up the coast, the storm waves must have reached right up to the cliff face.

"Scaly Crickets must have survived many during their evolutionary history. In a way, they rely on the effect of such events, as the banks of cobbles and shingle they inhabit are technically known as 'storm deposits'."

Commenting on the discovery, Dr Sarah Henshall, Lead Ecologist for Buglife, the invertebrate conservation trust, added: "This is great news. The Scaly Cricket is one of our rarest insects and we are delighted that the population remains healthy at Marloes Sands."

Karim - Programme Leader for the University's Masters (MSc ) degree in Conservation Biology - has published a number of research papers on crickets, and is conducting a study of the ecology and life history of the Scaly Crickets, starting with their mating behaviour.

Male crickets usually attract a female by 'singing' to them, a sound made by the male rubbing its wings together, but Scaly Cricket males are wingless, so must have an alternative method of attracting a mate.

Explore further: There's more than one way to silence a cricket

Related Stories

There's more than one way to silence a cricket

May 29, 2014

For most of us, crickets are probably most recognizable by the distinctive chirping sounds males make with their wings to lure females. But some crickets living on the islands of Hawaii have effectively lost their instruments ...

Cricket fertility found to improve with age

June 11, 2014

UWA scientists researching the seminal fluid of field crickets (teleogryllus oceanicus) are a step closer to knowing why the insect's competitive fertilisation success increases with age.

Virus fans the flames of desire in infected crickets

January 7, 2014

Love may be a battlefield, but most wouldn't expect the fighters to be a parasitic virus and its cricket host. Just like a common cold changes our behavior, sick crickets typically lose interest in everyday activities. But ...

Long sexual duration could be period of male choice

December 9, 2011

(PhysOrg.com) -- The duration of sexual intercourse differs wildly across the animal kingdom. Now researchers seeking to understand the evolutionary significance of lengthy copulation duration have found evidence that it ...

Courtship in the cricket world

April 30, 2012

Everyone wants to present themselves in the best light - especially when it comes to finding a partner. Some rely on supplying honest information about their attributes while others exaggerate for good effect. A new study ...

Crickets' calling song hits the high notes

May 16, 2013

(Phys.org) —Research has detailed how acoustic communication has evolved within a unique species of cricket which exploits extremely high frequency harmonics to interact.

Recommended for you

Archaeologists discover Incan tomb in Peru

February 16, 2019

Peruvian archaeologists discovered an Incan tomb in the north of the country where an elite member of the pre-Columbian empire was buried, one of the investigators announced Friday.

Where is the universe hiding its missing mass?

February 15, 2019

Astronomers have spent decades looking for something that sounds like it would be hard to miss: about a third of the "normal" matter in the Universe. New results from NASA's Chandra X-ray Observatory may have helped them ...

What rising seas mean for local economies

February 15, 2019

Impacts from climate change are not always easy to see. But for many local businesses in coastal communities across the United States, the evidence is right outside their doors—or in their parking lots.

The friendly extortioner takes it all

February 15, 2019

Cooperating with other people makes many things easier. However, competition is also a characteristic aspect of our society. In their struggle for contracts and positions, people have to be more successful than their competitors ...

0 comments

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.