Discotettix belzebuth Serville, 1838
by Mrs. Amira Aqilah
© Kai Squires

Distributed in Borneo, Discotettix belzebuth Serville, 1838 (referred commonly as pygmy devil or spiky pygmy grasshopper) is one of the six extant species listed under genus Discotettix, which is exclusive to the terrestrial regions of Southeast Asia (Cigliano et al., 2021). Among its notable morphological characters are the flattened 6th to 8th or 9th segments of antennae, pronotum with net-like elevations, covered with impressed dots and numerous strong projections or spines (Kocarek et al., 2015; Muhammad et al., 2018). Its size is typically about 2 cm in length, which is roughly the diameter of a 20-cent coin. Its colouration is in earthy tones which are brown or dark green, sometimes with or without a red line marking the entire length of its pronotum.

Morphological variability is common in this species, especially regarding the number of pronotal spines. It can differ considerably among individuals, usually between seven and 11 spines per individual with the majority bearing 8 spines. The spines can also appear in two different forms - either fully developed (1.40 ± 0.15 mm) or they are presented as only minor spines (0.59 ± 0.24 mm) (Kocarek et al., 2015).

Bearing numerous spines on their pronotum, they give off a mystical and alien-like appearance especially in macrophotography. Hence, it is no wonder that it has become a favourite subject among nature enthusiasts and wildlife photographers venturing in the pristine rainforests of Borneo.

As with other Tetrigidae species, D. belzebuth feeds on small plants such as mosses and algae. This species is a master in camouflaging when they rest on mossy rocks, tree barks or forest grounds due to their body colour and shape (Tan & Wahab, 2018). Mosses that are entangled in between the spiny projections and punctures on the surface of their bodies could further aid in their camouflaging (Ito & Mohamed, 2001).

Detailed study of taxonomic revision by Kocarek et al. (2015) synonymised two species which are D. adenanii Mahmood, Idris & Salmah, 2007 and D. armatus Costa, 1864 as D. belzebuth. Nevertheless, research on this species and other Tetrigidae especially on behavioural and ecological aspects is still lacking and in need of attention.

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