Red-Phase Carolina Grasshopper with Missing Abdomen

2014 September 6

I found this recently-dead grasshopper beside the road on August 16, 2013.

It’s a “red phase” Carolina Grasshopper, Dissosteira carolina (the ones I’ve posted before have been “gray phase”, but we get both colors here. I think the gray ones are better camouflaged on gravel, while the redder ones are better camouflaged on the reddish rocks we have in a lot of places). Both colors have the same ridging on the thorax, though.

And both have the black hindwings with yellow trim along the edge.

And here’s a shot of the mouth, just because I can.

Anyway, it was dead. As for why it was dead, well, that was pretty obvious: most of its abdomen was missing.

And not just missing, but completely hollowed out:

The question now is, what caused this? I can think of a few possibilities:

One is that it was hit by a car, its abdomen ruptured, and then ants came and ate its insides. Except that when I’ve seen ants dismembering dead grasshoppers before, they don’t quit until nothing is left but a hollow shell.

Another possibility is that some predator (maybe a bird) had grabbed it and snipped off its abdomen, pulling out most of the grasshopper’s internal organs in the process. The indication against this is that I’d expect a bird to finish it, especially since I found the grasshopper right out in the open where a bird would have been able to find it easily.

A third possibility is that the grasshopper was a victim of an abdominal parasite, maybe a Horsehair worm like this one we found back in 2011. Such a parasite would tend to fill the entire abdominal cavity, and then when it left, it would leave a mostly-hollow but otherwise intact corpse like this one. I think this possibility is most likely.

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