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New to nature No 121: Cavichiana bromelicola

13 / 04 / 2014, The Guardian

A brilliantly coloured new species of leafhopper is the first to be associated with bromeliads in their native habitat.

Leafhoppers, family Cicadellidae, are hemimetabolous insects whose young look like miniature versions of the adults, minus fully developed wings. They use their piercing-sucking mouthparts to extract sap from xylem tubes of host plants as diverse as grasses, shrubs and trees. As the common name suggests, their hind legs enable them to jump many times their body length. A few species have earned a well-deserved reputation as pests. Some transmit bacterial and viral diseases. The glasshouse leafhopper (Hauptidia maroccana), for example, may cause unsightly damage to the foliage of ornamental plants. With more than 20,000 species, leafhoppers are among the most diverse insect groups lacking complete metamorphosis.

I have always had a soft spot for leafhoppers. In part because they are cute and impressively athletic, but more so because they conjure up pleasant memories of time spent as a student with an emeritus professor at Ohio State University, Dwight DeLong. DeLong had begun studying leafhoppers when he was a student and had lost none of his infectious enthusiasm for them. During his distinguished career, DeLong named about 5,000 species. He was also co-author with Donald Borror of the first editions of a well-known college entomology textbook known affectionately to generations of students as "Bored and Too Long".

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