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'All that glitters is not gold'

By Douglas Umberto de Oliveira

I try to develop myself in multiple faculties and interests. So, I have always paid attention to the most different human manifestations and those of other beings we cohabit on this planet. In the humanities activities, I got involved with musical composition around the 1970s, which evolved into a lyricist role for a good number of partners – these, yes, musicians – here in Brasília, Distrito Federal, Brazil. Among the "thousand sentences I've written", I'll highlight, for the purpose of this text, one that seems to fit well:

I know that the best in the world is over here in the backyard”,

in “Carambolé”, song by Luiz Graciliano Ribeiro Salles.

Well, I was walking through my beloved backyard when, out of the corner of my eye, I saw this "golden necklace" adorning the edge of a leaf (I promise that my next interest will be botany, if only to make texts like this more "scientific"). Despite finding mining environmentally harmful, I decided to photograph it and publish it iNaturalist, even at the risk of a "gold rush" to the Brazilian Cerrado and – spare me! - to my lovely backyard.

The "golden necklace" - Leaf Katydids eggs observed during the GSB 2020 in Brasília, DF, Brazil. Photo by Douglas Umberto de Oliveira (iNaturalist id: douglas-u-oliveira).

Naturally, out of pure ignorance, I "guessed" that it belonged to the Insecta class. Shortly afterwards, Lucas Rubio (iNat id lrubio7, biology student in Buenos Aires and an iNat Coordinator) graciously indicated that it belonged to the Phaneropterinae subfamily, that is, an Esperança (the common name for katydids in Portuguese, which means 'hope' in English). Between September 26 and October 12, 2020, I looked at the necklace neurotically in search of the jeweller who would have polished it. And then one of those "miracles" of life occurred when nineteen nymphs of a species we still haven't identified were simultaneously born. For the time being, the jeweller who created this masterpiece is still unknown.

Specimens of the subfamily Phaneropterinae observed during the GSB 2020 in Brasília, DF, Brazil. Photo by Douglas Umberto de Oliveira (iNaturalist id: douglas-u-oliveira).

In jewellery stores, jewels generally do not carry the name of the artisans who spent a huge effort to create them. Likewise, species identification is often a painstaking and time-consuming job involving many knowledgeable 'artificers'. Even hoping that these nymphs are a widely distributed species and, therefore, far from the risk of extinction, I dream of the possibility that they are not scientifically described yet.

I'll explain: this would give me a chance to assign a scientific name to the species. In this case, I would have no doubt in Latinizing the names of my four grandchildren to compose the binomial (or trinomial, if a subspecies). Perhaps this would awaken in them an even more profound interest in nature and its riches beyond formal education.

Conclusion: the necklace wasn't made of gold, but I still have 'hope' (Esperança).

Check out this record of the subfamily Phaneropterinae on iNaturalist, and the identification process after the eggs hatched.


Fun fact:

Phaneropterines are insects of the Order Orthoptera, suborder Ensifera, and family Tettigoniidae. They are cosmopolitan, being present in all continents, except in the polar regions of the globe. The greatest diversity is concentrated in tropical areas, especially in the Neotropical Region, with Brazil being one of the countries with the greatest diversity of species in the world. Phaneropterinae is the most diverse subfamily of Tettigoniidae as well as Orthoptera, currently comprising 375 genera and just over 2700 species. Source: Wikipédia.

*This blog title quotes William Shakespeare in The Merchant of Venice.

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Stephen Fricker
Stephen Fricker
Dec 05, 2022

Yes agreed thankyou for sharing (and translating?) this post by Douglas Umberto de Oliveira, very interesting.


Pete Crowcroft
Pete Crowcroft
Dec 05, 2022

Wow, that is great writing! Really love this observation - I hope you do find out what plant has the golden necklace jewels!

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