Badlands Grasshopper

2021 December 26

As I mentioned earlier, Sandy and the girls took a trip to the South Dakota Badlands in June 2021.

The badlands are an example of what happens when erosion gets too extreme (I understand that they are a result of a series of massive flooding events when the ice dams holding back glacial lakes let go at the end of the last Ice Age). Basically, everything washed away except for some slightly-more-erosion-resistant blocks of what looks like some kind of calcareous mudstone.

There is no topsoil to speak of, and the sediments that were washed away contain very little iron or manganese, so the soil is basically just a uniform off-white color. The thin veneer of vegetation doesn’t cover everything, there are a lot of bare spots.

It’s not completely lifeless, though. Here’s a grasshopper. See him?

Where’s Waldo?

Here’s a bit closer of a look:

This is a grasshopper nymph. It was only June 18, so he hadn’t had his last molt and grown his wings yet. He looks a lot like the nymphs of the Carolina Grasshopper, Dissosteira carolina, except for the color – he’s a lot whiter than the ones I’ve seen around here, which are normally either gray or brick-red as nymphs. Still, they are a very variable species as far as color, and the shape and habitat are right. If it isn’t the Carolina Grasshopper, I expect that it is at least one of its close relatives.

There are other ways for animals to hide out in the Badlands. It looks like this cliff has a couple of burrows in it.

It would be hard for a mammal to get up there to dig those, so I expect they are probably some kind of bird. Maybe Bank_Swallows?

You can also see the roots of the plants growing at the top of the cliff. They go pretty deep, which is what you would expect for perennial plants growing in an area with no topsoil and not a lot of rainfall.

2 Responses
  1. January 6, 2022

    Ugh. The southwest. Horrible.

  2. January 23, 2022

    Well, technically South Dakota is just the “west”, not the “southwest”. Some would even argue it is still part of the “midwest”

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