“Mexico 2011″: new species and … tacos!

19 December 2011

The expedition “Mexico 2011” of the naturalists of the World Biodiversity Association in a research trip of 3000 km across the States of  Puebla, Veracruz, Tabasco, Chiapas, Oaxaca and Estado de Mexico, December 16, 2011 finished.
The aim of the expedition was to collect specimens of grasshoppers, locusts and crickets in different environments for DNA molecular analysis to clear the origin of some genera and provide a preliminary phylogeny of the mexican Orthoptera, verifying some evolutionary factors.
The expedition was supported by WBA and the University of Central Florida (Orlando) and involved two naturalists of WBA, Paolo Fontana (Edmund Mach Fundation) and Paola Tirello (University of Padova) and two scholars of the University of Central Florida: Ricardo Marino-Perez and Derek Woller, coordinated by prof. Hojun Song.
In the course of investigations more than 2000 specimes of orthoptera were collected, belonging to about 100 different species, from the sea level to 2700 m altitude, in arid and semiarid environments, and in the most tangled rainforests. The very high day temperatures were followed by cool or cold evenings and nights. The success of the expedition was significant, both for the quantity of material collected and for the great variety of species and families, representative of almost all the mexican orthopteran fauna.
Among the most prestigious results of “Mexico 2011” we must highlight the discovery of three new species for science (probably belonging to two new genera); as soon as possible they will be studied and described both from a morphological and molecular point of view.
Among these species, a large and coloured grasshopper collected 2300 m altitude in the State of Oaxaca, esclusively on a species of Labiatae, probably a Salvia with fire red flowers. The great showiness of this species could be related to its potential toxicity to predators, due to the forced alimentation based on the sole, very aromatic, host plant. Some specimens of the host plant were also collected.
During “Mexico 2011” some famous archaeological sites were visited; in these sites many interesting species were collected too.  The researchers also visited lost and isolated villages, establishing intense relationships with the local population.
Moreover, during the expedition, naturalists appreciated the culinary aspects of grasshoppers, particularly of the typical dish of the State of Oaxaca, the Chapulines (grasshoppers), with which they stuffed some rich mexican tacos!