“Make me thrill as only you know how, sway me smooth, sway me now…” – ‘Dancing’ grasshopper

Last September in the south of Spain, I came across an insect, a grasshopper of the Acrididae family (I believe), that struck me by its unusual behaviour.

I was getting closer to the individual to take a quick picture, but the it turned out that it was not fleeing from me, as I had expected. In fact, it:

  • stayed pretty much in the same spot, taking only a few steps backwards at a time
  • swayed from side to side, sometimes slowly and other times more rapidly
  • jumped away only when I was less than 10 cm from it, if not closer.

Some people suggested that the “swaying” was a sort of defence mechanism, whereas others thought that the guy might have been ill. I side with the latter explanation since not jumping is putting it more at risk of predation.

Anyone have any thoughts, either on the species or on the behaviour?

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2 thoughts on ““Make me thrill as only you know how, sway me smooth, sway me now…” – ‘Dancing’ grasshopper

  1. Sam Evans

    I’ve seen this a lot in various hopping insects. I always assumed swaying helped them to better visually assess where they might land (or wish to avoid landing) if they were to jump. For instance, I’ve consistently observed mantids to sway side-to-side prior to jumping, most often when handling them and putting on hand in front of them and holding it still (upon which they would often jump to it). Perhaps, as you were moving in, your ‘hopper noticed the landscape ahead of him was changing, and was updating accordingly.
    Could also be a behavior to assist in crypsis (“Pay no heed; I am but a humble inedible blade of grass, swaying in the wind.”). But I think I favor my vision hypothesis in the case of this ‘hopper.
    Anyway, to be general, leaping with discretion is probably adaptive. There be many things that can see you when you move, and many bad places to land.

    Reply
    1. Ria Pi Post author

      Like you, I think your first hypothesis makes a bit more, especially given that it was on a tree stump with no grass in the immediate vicinity. In the end, I sort of forced it to jump from it, and it ended up in my face first.

      Thanks for the info!

      Reply

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