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Is That Grasshopper Pink? Boy Discovers Rare Insect

Aug 21, 2014 12:29 PM EDT
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A young boy from Japan's Gunma Prefecture recently stumbled upon something extremely rare - a vibrantly pink adult grasshopper.

What's extraordinary is that the sixth-grader actually managed to capture the agile insect, landing him a feature on his country's main national news channel Nippon Hōsō Kyōkai (NHK).

And while some might mourn this grasshopper, doomed to a life in a tiny plastic habitat, it's also very likely that its capture will allow the insect to avoid an inevitable and violent death.

Grasshoppers are traditionally green or brown for a reason. Their natural coloring allows them to hide from prey even as their powerful legs propel them around tall grasses. On instinct, a pink grasshopper will act similarly to any other insect, staying perfectly still when it senses a nearby predator in the hopes that it will be mistaken for vegetation.

However, it wouldn't be very hard to notice the young boy's "Mr. Hopper" in a field of green. In fact, it's a near-miracle the insect survived as long as it did with its unusual coloration.

Mark Bushell, assistant curator of invertebrates at Bristol Zoo Gardens, told BBC News back in 2012 that brightly colored grasshoppers were "fairly unusual but not unheard of."

"They may not tend to survive for long in the wild as they are easily spotted by predators," he said, "so it is a treat to see a grasshopper as beautiful as this."

The expert added that nymphs sometimes boast a pinkish coloration, but that it tends to fade to a brown or dark pinkish-purple as the insect becomes an adult. True vibrant pink insects are instead the consequence of genetic mutation, not unlike albinism.

The mutation is called erythrism, and it promotes the over-expression of pigments. According to Victoria Hillman, a National Geographic Explorer and Research Director for the Transylvanian Wildlife Project, this mutation was first identified by entomologists in 1887 and is occasionally seen all over the world.

However, if you do see one, I recommend getting yourself to the nearest casino as fast as possible. Dutch photographer Roeselien Rasimond, who made it her mission to capture this rare phenomenon on film, says that there is a greater chance of winning the lottery than finding one.

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