April 8 – By Jimminy!

Today’s factismal: A new species of cave cricket with pinchers on their butts was discovered in 2005.

Cave crickets are funny critters. Their humped back makes them look a little like camels, while their long legs make them look something like spiders, and their thick thighs look just like miniature turkey drumsticks. That’s why they are called such a wide variety of names, including camelback crickets, spider crickets, criders, sprickets, and weta.

A Camel cricket, close up and personal(Image courtesy Your Wild Life)

A Camel cricket, close up and personal
(Image courtesy Your Wild Life)

Their distribution is even wider than their nomenclature. They are found on every continent except Antarctica, and live in caves, under logs in forests, in abandoned burrows, and in basements everywhere. Their wide range shows both their resilience and their adaptability. Though they normally feed on fungi and plant detritus, they are not averse to nibbling on the odd sweater or stray dust bunny. Despite this, they rarely damage human homes; other than the “ick” factor, they are remarkably good neighbors.

Another species of camel cricket(Image courtesy North Carolina State University)

Another species of camel cricket
(Image courtesy North Carolina State University)

But we don’t know very much about our neighbors. We are still discovering where they live and finding new species of cave crickets. For example, an expedition to a cave in Utah found a new species of cave cricket in 2005. What was amazing about this species was that it had pincers on its butt that it used to fight for mates (imagine a pair of miniature stags fighting in reverse); though other species of cave cricket have pinchers, they are non-functional and fixed open.

If you’d like to help researchers learn more about cave crickets, then please keep an eye out for them in your neighborhood. If you spot one, try to take a picture and send it to the Camel Cricket Census:

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