Archive | December 17, 2012

Parktown Prawn

Male Parktown Prawn (Libanasdus vittatus) from the Modjadji Cycad Reserve in Limpopo. [Canon 1Ds MkII, Canon 100mm macro, 2 speedlights Canon 580EX]

Male Parktown Prawn (Libanasdus vittatus) from the Modjadji Cycad Reserve in Limpopo. [Canon 1Ds MkII, Canon 100mm macro, 2 speedlights Canon 580EX]

Around this time of the year, the lucky inhbitants of Johannesburg in South Africa are often visited by this handsome beast, known as the Parktown Prawn (Libanasidus vittatus). Originally found only in indigenous forests of northeastern part of the country, in 1960’s these cricket and katydid relatives (Anostostomatidae) started appearing in gardens and houses around Jo-burg. It is not quite certain what attracted them there, but it was likely a combination of the relatively high humidity of suburban gardens, combined with the lack of their natural predators, mongooses and monitor lizards, in this anthropogenic environment.

These beautiful insects are feared by many, but of course they are completely and utterly harmless. The massive jaws seen in the males are used only in territorial battles with other males, and cannot be used to stab or bite a person. Their only defense is, unfortuntely, rather odorous defecation. But if left alone they make a beautiful addition to the South African urban ecosystem.

Male Parktown Prawn (Libanasdus vittatus) from the Modjadji Cycad Reserve in Limpopo. [Canon 1Ds MkII, Canon 100mm macro, 2 speedlights Canon 580EX]

Female Parktown Prawns lack the huge processes on their mandibles. [Canon 1Ds MkII, Canon 100mm macro, 2 speedlights Canon 580EX]