Monday, 15 September 2008


This beauty was one of the many specials found on our visit to Sinharaja rain forest during the photography tour that I guided last month. It looked bizarre. This was the first time I came across it. And it really looked prehistoric. This effect was further enhanced as it was resting on a Giant Fern Angiopteris evecta —a primitive fern with very similar fossilised fronds having been found in rocks some 300 million years old.

I sought I identification help from Dr.Priyantha Wijesinghe (D.P. Wijesinghe, in most literature) who is a Sri Lankan Systematic Biologist working in the Entomology Department of the American Museum of Natural History (edit: he doesn't work at AMNH anymore).

He got back, "...your photographs are excellent, and I was very glad to see them, not having come across a live specimen of Zumala myself..."

That did not hurt my ego!

According to Dr. Wijesinghe, this Long-horned Grasshopper (Orthoptera: Tettigoniidae) belongs to the genus: Zumala, which belongs to the subfamily Pseudophyllinae, and tribe Phyllomimini. He confirmed that as far as is known, this genus is confined to Sri Lanka’s wet zone, and is represented by 3 species: Zumala robusta (Walker, 1939)—type species of the genus Zumala; Zumala cingalensis (Walker, 1869); and Zumala intermedia (Henry, 1939). This apparently is a female as can be seen from the ovipositor, the tip of which is visible protruding from between the back end of the tegmina (forewings).

Dr. Wijesinghe identified this individual as Zumala robusta, "...mainly on the basis of the shape and size of ovipositor and the dorsal curvature of the pronotum and tegmina in profile." He had based his identification on a paper done by G.M. Henry, the author of A Guide to the Birds of Ceylon, who was the entomologist of the Department of National Museums (then Colombo Museum), 1913-1945, and specialised in the study of Orthoptera. Henry's post was filled by Dr. Wijesinghe in the 80s.

The paper referred above is:
Henry, G.M. 1939. The genus Zumala Walker, (Insecta, Orthoptera) with description of a new species. Ceylon Journal of Science B Zoology and Geology {Spolia Zeylanica} 21 (3):219-228, 4 plts.

Dr. Wijesinghe explained to me that according to Henry, although this species has wing (concelaed under the tegmina), it is probably incapable of flight. Apparently, the other two species lack hind wings altogether, and therefore are flightless.

This is us after finding the Zumala.


Anonymous said...

oh--that is a lovely find!
Great photos.

Sean said...

Great piece Amila! Nice find.

Sasani said...

Nice photos! It's creatures like these that make you wonder about the diversity of nature.

Java Jones said...

Too mucking fuch, Amila. Great shots - as usual!

Pat - An Arkansas Stamper said...

A most interesting creature is this Zumala. Well found, Amila! I am pleased for you that you received recognition for your excellent photography as well as your locating of this rare insect.

Yes, your group does look happy, as it should have. That's an exciting find.

I spent part of today watching a Monarch caterpillar pupate. I'm 74 years old, and had never witnessed this event before. It was amazing! You've encouraged me to become a 'bug watcher.'

Anonymous said...

Hi Birdman, That looks good enough to eat, that if you are in to eating insects. Very nice and I truly hope that you would find a new species in Sinharaja! Super!

Gallicissa said...

Hi Bug Girl,
Thanks! I treat it as one of my top 10 finds for 2008!

Hi Sean,
Thanks! We used the same trail to head back and found it again some 4hours after at the same spot!

Hi Sasani,
Thanks! Sinharaja is mind-blowingly diverse in life – which is why it is my favourite hunting grounds.

Hi Java,
As I found the built-in flash of my camera too harsh, I used toilet paper to diffuse it!
Who says you should only use them for their intended purpose?

Hi Pat,
My French visitors were happier than that – I promise!
Great to hear that you witnessed a Monarch caterpillar pupate!
I will come to see the pics.

I am very pleased to learn that I have encouraged you to become a bug girl!

Hi Kalu,
Are you thinking of Deep-fried Zumala?

We had a pretty amazing walk that day and ending up filling all our memory cards.

Tabib said...

Beautiful Zumala look like leaf complete with venation.

Larry said...

Amila, You have some incredible animals and bugs over there. That Zumala looks prehistoric!

Gallicissa said...

Hi Tabib,
Indeed - it shows amazing protective resemblence.
Enjoy the celebrations tomorrow!

Hi Larry,
"...prehistoric" - that is exactly what I thought when I saw it!

Larry said...

Nice photo of yu happy birders but I find myself just as fascinated by the wonderful habitat behind you.

The Right Blue said...

Wow, what a remarkable find! Congratulations. I'm sure the entomologist you consulted was delighted to have the record.


Gallicissa said...

Thanks Bobbie!
Yes he was pleased to see a picture of it. This was a 'high value target'!

mboi said...

that is some incredible camouflage. as can be seen in your first photo, the bug has even got 'veins' just like a leaf. of course the evolution of that morphology is perfectly understandable when you consider how the bug that looks most like a leaf will have the best survival advantage.

Tommy V said...

wow what a interesting bug. Great post

Anonymous said...

First of all I lOVE its name. And it's a grasshopper??? I was sure it was some sort of beetle. Then I thought the ovipositor was a tail and maybe it was a lizard of sorts. See what your pictures do? Finally I read your well-written text. You have a good eye my friend.

Gallicissa said...

Hi mboi,
You right - it is very well camoflaged. Most of the rain forest insects have such special adaptation and predators are many.

Ho Tommy,
Thanks! Glad you liked it.

Hi Bev,
Quite a catchy name, innit?
You are absolutely right; it packs so many animal looks into it!

That is why I consulted a Systematic Biologist!

Doug Taron said...

This is one of the things that I love about blogging- getting to share wonderful experiences like this with folks all over the world. Great find, and super photos. I can imagine your exccitement when you encountered it.

Gallicissa said...

Hi Doug,
Thanks! I knew you would like this one. As the Singaporean birder - Ding Li would say when he finds a life bird: " was a momentous day for mankind!"

I will be on the look out for other two species of Zumala to make a clean sweep of that genus.

oldcrow61 said...

I have to say that I envy you. What fascinating things you see. Fabulous creature.

Gallicissa said...

Thank you, OC!

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