Friday 10 November 2023

Tagasta tonkinensis

Tagasta tonkinensis (越北橄蝗).

There are many species of grasshoppers in Hunan but I have hitherto afforded them little attention: next year I hope to more carefully note and identify the various orthopteras I see by the river, on Yuelu Mountain, and further afield. This one I observed last September 7th: from July until mid-October they were often in the wilds by the Xiang river but they are gone now.

One wonders if the name of the genus refers to Thagaste, the Numidian village and famed birthplace of St Augustine. The ancient town lay in a valley but the adjacent forested hilltops were long a natural fortification against foreign invaders. The genus falls under the family Pyrgomorphidae (a remarkably colourful grouping of grasshoppers), which derives from πύργος, a 'defensive tower', because their heads vaguely resemble towers. It would take some imagination to envision the towered forts of Thagaste in this little insect, but the image does the trick as a mnemonic.

Tagasta tonkinensis by Xiang River