An endemic species of ‘Chicharrita’ discovered on La Gomera

The scientific journal Zootaxa has just announced the discovery of a species of leafhopper or leafhopper new to science, which is also endemic to the Canary Islands. This is Morsina gomerae, found on La Gomera during sampling in a research project led by Brent Emerson, from the CSIC Institute of Natural Products and Agrobiology (IPNA-CSIC).

Later, on a visit to the IPNA-CSIC by entomologist Vladimir Gnezdilov, from the Russian Academy of Sciences, this renowned specialist in homopterans realized that it was a new species and, in collaboration with researchers Heriberto López and Daniel Suárez, both IPNA-CSIC , began the morphological study of the specimens to make it known to science.

The result of your work is collected in the article scientist who describes the morphological characteristics of the captured specimens of this new species and provides several photos of its appearance and the habitat in which it lives.

The sap that feeds them

The ‘Chicharritas’, as they are commonly known, are small insects belonging to the Homoptera group that generally live in plants, bushes and trees. They feed on the sap by sticking their stiletto-shaped mouthparts into plant tissues.

The so-called ‘chicharritas’ are insects belonging to the Homoptera group that feed on the sap of plants, shrubs and trees.

Specimens of Morsina gomerae were found in La Hoya, a locality close to San Sebastián de La Gomera, characterized by the predominance of crops abandoned for decades and where potential vegetation has been recolonizing the soil. This small homoptera was found on local plants of tabaibas, verodes, balos and daisies, although it is probably distributed in similar habitats in various parts of the island.

Some species of Homoptera can be pests of the plants they live on, especially in the case of invasive species, which tend to have very high population densities due to the absence of competitors and natural enemies.

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It is an endemic species with an apparently low population density that has evolved on La Gomera for thousands of years.

However, this is not the case with Morsina gomerae, an endemic species with a low density of specimens (apparently), which evolved on La Gomera for thousands of years, without seriously affecting the plant species in which it lives and, probably, perfectly integrated into the trophic chain of its habitat.

The first of the Canary Islands

Until now, the genus Morsina was thought to have a total of 15 species, distributed across Iran, the Arabian Peninsula and North and Northeast Africa. Morsina gomerae is the first species of Morsina described in the Canary Islands and the first of the family Nogodinidae reported for this archipelago, which makes it the 16th world number of this genus of leafhoppers.

In the paper, the researchers point out that Morsina gomerae is morphologically similar to Morsina ainsefra from Algeria, but its wings and male genitalia show notable differences in shape and dimensions.

The genus Morsina belongs to the Auchenorhynchus, a poorly studied group of Homoptera in the Canary Islands. Fortunately, the work on these homoptera that Heriberto López and Daniel Suárez, from IPNA-CSIC, together with Pedro Oromí, from the University of La Laguna, are developing, in collaboration with international specialists, are producing very promising results, such as the one published now by Zootaxa , which indicates the need to deepen the knowledge of these insects in the archipelago.

Reference:

Vladimir M. Gnezdilov, Heriberto López et al. “Family Nogodinidae (Hemiptera: Fulgoroidea) of the Canary Islands, with the description of a new species of the genus Morsina Melichar, 1902“. Zootax, 2023

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