Impurest's Guide to Animals #166 - Pharaoh Cicada

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Edited By ImpurestCheese

And its back to the busy survey season with the first newt survey of the year completed. Last week we said hello to the slow paced Triton’s Trumpet and its deadly prey the Crown of Thorns Starfish. This week we have an ear-splitting request from @bella_blackstar, hope you guys enjoy.

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Issue #166 – Pharaoh Cicada

[1]
[1]

Kingdom – Animalia

Phylum – Arthropoda

Class – Insecta

Order – Hemiptera

Family – Cicadidae

Genus – Magicada

Species – septendecim

Related Species - The Pharaoh Cicada is one of seven species known collectively as the Periodical Cicadas.

Range - Pharaoh Cicada can be found in parkland and treelines throughout the Eastern Seaboard of the United States and Canada

Seventeen Year Locust?

Pharaoh Cicadas are the largest members of the genus Magicada with the adults reaching a body length of almost 4cm. The adult cicadas have black bodies with large red eyes and orange wings, while the nymphs are pale wingless versions of the eventual imago. The nymphs are largely subterranean, feeding on the roots of the trees that their eggs were laid on, and moult at least five times over the course of seventeen years (2). During the seventeenth year in late April the nymph will tunnel up to the surface at night and complete one final moult where it becomes a winged sexually mature adult.

[2]
[2]

The nymphs of all seven species of the Periodic Cicadas emerge in large ‘broods; over the course of a week, and while initially vulnerable to predation the sheer number of insects mean any losses prior to breeding are inconsequential. While largely defenceless, the Pharaoh Cicada can release a warning call that alerts nearby insects to the presence of potential danger, and when pressed cicadas can deliver a painful bite. The calls the insects are most known for however, are their nuptial call which can reach over 100dB in volume and sounds like the word ‘Pharaoh’ and is likely the reason for their colloquial name. The species is also known as the Seventeen-Year Locust but it should be noted that locusts and cicadas are from completely different orders, and produce their calls in completely different ways.

All cicada calls are generated by the insect vibrating a membrane known as a ‘tymbal’ located on the top of the abdomen to make a clicking sound. Combining the movements of the tymbal with the (largely) hollow abdomen and the resonating chambers in the trachea, the cicada can make an almost continuous song. Different species of cicada call at different times of the day, with the Pharaoh Cicada calling during the hottest part of the day (3). Once a males crescendo attracts a female they quickly mate, and the female finds a twig and chews a hollow in the bark, in which she lays her eggs. Adult Pharaoh Cicadas have relatively short lifespans, with most of the insects dead by the time the eggs hatch, and the nymphs drop off their nursery trees between late June and mid-July.

Ecology 101: A Guide to Environmental Mechanics #17 - Cicadas and Prime Numbers

In 1749 Pehr Kalm, a Swedish entomologist visiting the United States observed a massive emergence of cicadas in both New Jersey and Pennsylvania, but on returning to the same area a year later in 1750, he found that the insects were nowhere to be seen. In an attempt to investigate why the cicadas were not active in 1750, Kalm scoured the archives and cited sources, including Benjamin Franklin, about the periodic nature of cicadas about the appearance of the insects in 1715 and 1732, eventually coming to the conclusion that the cicadas or ‘locusts’ as he called them only appeared every seventeen years (4).

Further observations would later confirm that the species Kalm had witnessed were indeed tied to a seventeen year cycle. However, such a cycle is not found in all cicadas, with the vast majority of species classed as annual cicadas with much shorter lifespans of between two to ten years, and who appear every summer. Only the cicadas from the genus Magicada have fixed synchronised lifecycle tied to either thirteen or seventeen years, both of which are prime numbers. Of the seven species three take seventeen years to mature, and the remaining four take thirteen years to reach adulthood.

One of the Cicada Killer Wasps [3]
One of the Cicada Killer Wasps [3]

The reason for such a long lifespan, at least in the modern day, comes down to a response for predation. While cicadas face a lot of predation when they emerge from underground, not just from specialised cicada predators such as the Eastern Cicada Killer (Sphecius specosis), but also from generalist feeders such as songbirds, lizards and foxes to name but a few. Because the aforementioned predators have relatively short lifespans however, they are unable to synchronise their own breeding seasons with that of the cicadas, thus ensuring that the cicadas will always outnumber any potential hunters by such a large margin that a single brood can lose thousands of individuals and yet still remain healthy.

The shed exoskeletons of a cicada brood around a single tree [4]
The shed exoskeletons of a cicada brood around a single tree [4]

Outlasting their predators is however, not the reason such long periods between cicada nymphs hatching and then maturing into adults exists. Instead, such long developmental periods probably come down to a survival response relating to an increase in glacial action in the last four million years when these insects evolved (5). Current distributions show that the three most northerly species of periodic cicada mature on a seventeen year cycle, while more southerly species mature on the thirteen year cycle. Both groups can probably owe their slow maturation periods to cold soil temperatures slowing their development into adults, as evidence on how changes in local temperature can slow or speed up the development of other species of insect.

This year only a single cicada brood, Brood VI, is scheduled to emerge this year, and is set to emerge in Northern Georgia and Carolinas sometime in late April or early May. Because of their fixed terms, cicada emergence's can be accurately mapped for decades, even centuries into the future.

Bibliography

1 -www.arkive.org

2 - Marlatt, C. L. (1907). The Periodical Cicada (Bulletin No. 71 - U.S. Department of Agriculture, Bureau of Entomology). Washington, D.C.: United States Government Printing Office. pp. 123–12

3 - Turpin, Tom (11 September 2008). "Sound of Insect Music Ushers in Fall Season". Purdue University

4 - Davis, J.J. (May 1953). "Pehr Kalm's Description of the Periodical Cicada, Magicicada septendecim L., from Kongl. Svenska Vetenskap Academiens Handlinger, 17:101-116, 1756, translated by Larson, Esther Louise (Mrs. K.E. Doak)". The Ohio Journal of Science. 53: 139–140

5 - Teiji Sota; Satoshi Yamamoto; John R. Cooley; Kathy B. R. Hill; Chris Simon; Jin Yoshimura (2013). "Independent divergence of 13- and 17-y life cycles among three periodical cicada lineages". Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America. 110 (2): 6919–6924

Picture References

1 - https://c1.staticflickr.com/4/3782/8931258551_16d7fd65bc_b.jpg

2 - http://www.cuyahogaswcd.org/files/blog/slideshow/where-nymph.jpg

3 - http://bugguide.net/images/cache/5LV/ZXL/5LVZXLBZHLHRMH1HPHLRPH1HIHTHQL6Z0L8ZLLNZ2HZRWHFHEHLRMLAZ5L3H7LAZ4L9ZNHAZ5LEZRL8ZQL1ZPHYHML.jpg

4 - http://news.nationalgeographic.com/content/dam/news/photos/000/657/65791.jpg

Talk about a mysterious emergence indeed, if the screaming of the cicadas doesn’t do your head in, trying to figure out the reason for the maths behind it will. Next week grab your time machines and mosquitos entombed in amber because we have a tyrannical issue of IGTA, but until then make sure to critic, comment and suggest future issues as well as making sure you check past issues in Impurest’s Bestiary

Many Thanks

Impurest Cheese

Want more IGTA? For another loud and proud insect, click here to see the Koppie Foam Grasshopper. Or for an issue on weird noises click here to hum along with Plainfin Midshipman.

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CaptainMarvel4Ever

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Oh, what a cool choice, I've been thinking about Cicadas a lot lately

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WollfMyth209

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Fascinating. Insects like these always interested me.

Nice blog, queen. ^_^

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deactivated-5b5405244e89c

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Because Cicadas are cool. Thank you again IC, it was a nice read ^-^

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That mess of shed exoskeletons is rather unsettling.

It reminds me of the time my garage had a maggot infestation. There was pretty much a carpet of them as I remember it.

I was only a child. ;0;

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@bella_blackstar said:

Because Cicadas are cool. Thank you again IC, it was a nice read ^-^

Indeed they are, very cool suggestion :)

What made you request them?

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@wollfmyth209: Thank you. Not sure when I became queen, I mean I live in a constitutional monarchy but...meh

@emperor339: It is a wee bit disturbing I will agree. Maggot infestation though, that is very disturbing

@bella_blackstar: No problem, thanks for requesting it

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IceDemonKing

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Was the cicada mating with that wasp?

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@emperor339 said:

I get the feeling that ship will sink the moment it leaves the harbor

Pretty much. IC is a lesbian, IIRC, and I'm bi who's already got his eyes on someone else.

Our ship is in worse condition than the Titanic. :/ I was really making the queen comment 'cause I respect and like the user, given all the work she puts into these amazing blogs.

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@wollfmyth209 said:

@captainmarvel4ever said:

@emperor339 said:

I get the feeling that ship will sink the moment it leaves the harbor

Pretty much. IC is a lesbian, IIRC, and I'm bi who's already got his eyes on someone else.

Ugh... yes, that's what I was implying (it's called subtlety!!!)

Our ship is in worse condition than the Titanic. :/ I was really making the queen comment 'cause I respect and like the user, given all the work she puts into these amazing blogs.

That however, is a notion I can get behind

Long live her majesty

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@wollfmyth209:

She sure does put a great deal of work into these.
It's much appreciated by all of us of course!

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@wollfmyth209 said:

@captainmarvel4ever said:

@emperor339 said:

I get the feeling that ship will sink the moment it leaves the harbor

Pretty much. IC is a lesbian, IIRC, and I'm bi who's already got his eyes on someone else.

Ugh... yes, that's what I was implying (it's called subtlety!!!)

Our ship is in worse condition than the Titanic. :/ I was really making the queen comment 'cause I respect and like the user, given all the work she puts into these amazing blogs.

That however, is a notion I can get behind

Long live her majesty

WHAT IS THIS THING YOU CALL SUBTLETY?!?!?!?!!!!!?!?!!!!

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@wollfmyth209:

She sure does put a great deal of work into these.

It's much appreciated by all of us of course!

Everything aside though, I think we can all agree on that

(couldn't get both quotes in the same comment)

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Amendment50

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The Black Canary of the animal kingdom

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destinyman75

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Nice suggestion and I like the hyper voice option

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colorful lil' thing

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Very interesting. Btw, can you briefly explain how Locusts make their call differently than the cicadas?

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#29  Edited By Avenging-X-Bolt

Makes me wanna watch the Cicada episode of Scooby Doo

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#30  Edited By Green_Tea

interesting lol, seeing those amounts of shed exo-skeletons on the ground is mind blowing.

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Toratorn

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#31  Edited By Toratorn

100 dB... How loud is that in mundane examples?

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@amendment50: Perhaps, but there are a lot of noisy beasties out there

@destinyman75: Almost went with Bug Buzz! Thanks for the comment

@amazing_webhead: Yeah it is, never really looked at it from the aesthetic point of view

@heroup2112: The main difference is that locusts and grasshoppers rub the striations on their enlarged back legs against their body to make noise.

@avenging_x_bolt: Is that the one with the 'Beast of Vulture's Claw' which looked like a giant grasshopper?

@solid_snake97: Yeah cicadas emerge in the millions apparently

@toratorn: 100dB is about the same as a helicopter taking off in close proximity to the listener

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@toratorn: No problem, thanks for the comment

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who's already got his eyes on someone else.

dadivineking :P ?

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Great issue as always.

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@impurestcheese: it's from Scooby Doo:Mystery Incorporated which was a very recent series which I recomend highly.

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@laflux: Thanks for the comment ?

@avenging_x_bolt: Thanks for the recomendation, unfortunately my insanely busy life eats up most of my free time.

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#43  Edited By ImpurestCheese
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The Pharaoh Cicacda, right in the middle of my mummy movie marathon - what are the odds?

That's one gorgeous cicada. (A sentence I never expected to type)

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I did a double take on the seventeen year (and thirteen year) gaps between generations. That's incredible. Then to exist as a sexually mature adult for such a short period of time to expressly procreate and die? How tragic.

I saw in the comments you mentioned them erupting in the millions. Chilling to know how climate change will affect this species.

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@ms-lola: Ah but it is a month of constant screaming and sex though, so in all honesty its not that bad.

Yeah climate change could cause these cicadas to become scarce indeed