The first fossil record of the differential grasshopper, Melanoplus differentialis (Orthoptera: Acrididae: Melanoplinae)

In a short paper published recently in Entomological News (citation and link below) , lab PI Sam Heads and collaborator Yinan Wang described a fossil specimen of the extant differential grasshopper, Melanoplus differentialis (Thomas, 1865) from the Late Pleistocene McKittrick tar pits of southern California, USA.


Fossil Melanoplus differentialis in Late Pleistocene asphalt from the McKittrick tar pits of Kern County, southern California (scale bar = 5 mm).

The adult male specimen is partially preserved in left lateral aspect in a large chunk of asphalt containing numerous other fossils, including abundant plant and arthropod debris, a horsetail stem (Equisetum sp.) and a hydrophilid beetle (Hydrophilus sp.). The comparatively large body size and structure of the terminalia (in particular the shape of the cercus) confirm the identification of the specimen as M. differentialis, making this the first tar pit orthopteran to be identified to species.


Heads SW, Wang Y (2013) First fossil record of Melanoplus differentialis (Orthoptera: Acrididae: Melanoplinae). Entomological News 123: 33–37. [PDF]

About Sam Heads

Entomologist and paleontologist at the University of Illinois.
This entry was posted in Acrididae, fossil insects, Grasshoppers, News, Orthoptera, publications, Research and tagged , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.