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Friday, September 17, 2010

Madagascar Day 14: Weird Nymphs

7 August 2008 - Spiny Forest, Renalia Project, Ifaty, Madagascar.

Madagascar has some weird animals. Actually, most creatures out there are weird. But the weirdness is not restricted to the horned chameleons, flat-tailed geckos or lemurs hopping from tree to tree. Also the insects are weird.

These photos show the nymphs of the Madagascan Flatid Leaf-bug (Phromnia rosea). Nymphs is the juvenile stage of insects. Some juvenile states are catterpillars that transform into butterflies. They have a complete metamorphosis. Nymphs are typical for insects that have gradual metamorphosis to grown up adult. With each moult they will look more like adults. The adults of these flatid leaf-bugs - I could not find the Dutch name - are red-rose of colour and don't look like these nymphs at all. So they have quite some transformation to do.

The actual bodies of these nymphs are quite small. These nymphs excrete a sort of white waxy substance which 'grows' from the animal like long wipsy feathers. They appear bigger. If a bird of other predator makes a grab for one of these insects it gets a beakful of white nothing, and the animal hops away.

They are quite pretty. With the background of the Madagascan red sand glowing in the late afternoon soon, it makes a great picture with contrasts and a limited colour palette. But do imagine how hard it is to get the right picture. There is a big spiny shrub. In the center is where the insects are sitting. So you have to manouvre yourself and the camera at 50 cm height into the shrub. Not moving. Avoiding spines. Avoiding shaking up branches; the nymphs might go away, but more importantly: the branch will move. And then try to focus while your head actually does not fit between the branches. Hold still. Get those few nymphs in the center in focus. Only them. Try to get the right light and background and make a shot. Several attempts, but in the end, it worked out. I did not have to compensate for lighting, white balance or colours to get this photo. Enjoy it. If you like weird tiny insects scribbling around.

For those who like the biological details:
Click a link and you'll go to the Flickr photo page for that rank in the biological classification. Or have a look in the 'Find wildlife photos' menu item on the left.

Phylum: Arthropoda; Arthropods / Geleedpotigen
Class: Insecta; Insects / Insekten
Order: Hemiptera; True Bugs / Halfvleugeligen of Snavelvleugeligen
Suborder: Fulgoromorpha; Planthoppers / Lantaarndragerachtigen
Family: Flatidae; Flatid Planthoppers / ??
Genus: Phromnia; Flatid Leaf-bugs/ ??
Species: Phromnia rosea; Madagascan Flatid Leaf-bug / ??

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