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NAU researchers chirping over discovery of new cricket genus

A Northern Arizona University doctoral candidate and a National Park Service researcher have discovered a new genus of cave cricket.

J. Judson "Jut" Wynne, an NAU graduate student and cave research scientist with U.S. Geological Survey's Southwest Biological Science Center, and Kyle Voyles from Parashant National Monument, made the discovery in Grand Canyon-Parashant National Monument in northwestern Arizona.

The still-unnamed genus of cave cricket has been confirmed by a San Diego State University entomologist, one of the leading taxonomists on cave crickets.

"This discovery could be highly relevant to the management and conservation of cave resources on the monument," Wynne said.

Crickets provide a valuable ecological service to the environment. Some species are often the primary decomposers in cave ecosystems.

The researchers also found a new cricket species (genus Ceuthophilus), possibly two new cricket species and a new barklouse (Psocopertan) species. The barklouse belongs to a genus previously unrecorded in North America. These discoveries were made while conducting an ecological inventory of 24 caves in the monument.

NAU's Colorado Plateau Museum of Arthropod Biodiversity is working with taxonomists to identify other invertebrate specimens collected during this study. So far, at least five new species have been identified from this research, and museum officials believe more new species discoveries will result.

Neil Cobb, curator of the Colorado Plateau Museum of Arthropod Biodiversity, said the discovery of a new genus in such a well-known order in North America is rare.

"Caves are one of the final frontiers in temperate regions for discovering new taxa," Cobb said. "Because caves are extreme environments, cave arthropods are very specialized and possibly endemic to a single cave system or region. They present interesting and odd evolutionary forms that reflect the extreme environments foun
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Source:Northern Arizona University


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