Cicadas: A Detailed Exploration

Cicadas are amazing insects that are members of the order Hemiptera, superfamily Cicadoidea. They are often referred to as real bugs. They belong to the Auchenorrhyncha suborder, which also includes smaller jumping insects like froghoppers and leafhoppers. There are two primary families within the Cicadoidea superfamily: Tettigarctidae, which has two species that are mostly found in Australia, and Cicadidae, which includes over 3,000 recognised species worldwide, with many more that are yet undocumented.


Classification of cicadas

Kingdom: Animalia

Phylum: Arthropoda

 Class: Insecta

Order: Hemiptera

Suborder: Auchenorrhyncha

Infraorder: Cicadomorpha

Superfamily: Cicadoidea

Hemiptera is the order that cicadas are in, along with other insects including aphids, leafhoppers, and true bugs. Cicada belongs to the infraorder Cicadomorpha and the suborder Auchenorrhyncha within the Hemiptera order. The actual cicadas are members of the superfamily Cicadoidea. 

Physical Characteristics and Behavior

The characteristic characteristics of Cicadidae are their large, widely separated eyes, short antennae, and fragile membrane front wings. The majority of these insects' very loud tunes are produced by the quick buckling and unbuckling of tymbals, which resemble drums. With remains from the Upper Permian epoch being the oldest known, cicadas have a long and rich evolutionary history.

Cicadidae usually live in trees, where they deposit their eggs in cracks in the bark and consume the watery sap of the xylem tissue. The majority of cicadas are cryptic in nature, and although some may call at dawn or night, most species are active throughout the day. It is known that a few uncommon species are nocturnal.

Known as periodical Cicadidae, members of the fascinating genus Magicicada, inhabit North America for the bulk of their existence as subterranean nymphs that sporadically emerge every 13 or 17 years, depending on the species and region. Because of their enormous numbers, which may appease predators before presenting a danger to their survival, this protracted emergence cycle helps prevent predation.

Conversely, annual cicadas are subterranean nymphs that come to life once a year and have various life cycles ranging from one to nine years. Their above-ground emergence is not synchronized like that of periodical cicadas, thus some individuals appear annually.

Taxonomy and Diversity

Within its two main groups, the superfamily Cicadoidea displays an amazing variety. There are species in Tasmania and southern Australia that belong to the Tettigarctidae family. The Cicadidae family, on the other hand, is made up of many subfamilies, including Tettigomyiinae, Cicadettinae, Derotettiginae, and Tibicininae (or Tettigadinae). The fact that Cicadidae are found on every continent save Antarctica has made them valuable research tools for biogeography studies in places like Indonesia, Asia, Australia, New Zealand, South Africa, North America, Latin America, and Southeast Asia.

Because they emerge in late July and August, certain species of cicadas found in North America are referred to as annual or dog-day cicadas and belong to genera like Neotibicen, Megatibicen, or Hadoa. By comparison, the longer life cycle of the Magicicada genus makes it stand apart.

Australian cicadidae are found in a broad range of habitats, including deserts, alpine regions, tropical islands, and chilly coastal beaches. Numerous of them go by intriguing common names, such as black prince, Crimson Eye, brown baker, and cherry nose. Furthermore, around 40 indigenous species of cicadas are found in New Zealand.

Paleontology and Evolution

The group to which cicadas belong, Cicadomorpha, first arose in the Late Triassic epoch, according to the fossil record. Upper Permian fossils, like those of the Australian and South African Dunstaniidae family, provide light on the ancestors of modern cicadas. Giant cicadas, or Palaeontinidae, first appeared in South America and Eurasia in the Lower Cretaceous and Jurassic periods.

The diversity of cicada species and their adaptations is a notable reflection of their long evolutionary history, with most fossil evidence originating from the Cenozoic period.

Biology and Anatomy

Cicadidae are distinct from other insects due to their distinctive biological and physical characteristics. Their conical-base, three- to six-segmented, three-jointed tarsi, as well as their rostrum, which protrudes from the posteroventral region of the skull, are their distinguishing features.

Cicadidae also have elaborate wing structures, membranes that produce sound, and a system of joining their wings that consists of upwards projecting flaps on the hindwings and downward-rolled edges on the forewings. The Tettigarctidae family is distinct from the Cicadidae family in that the prothorax extends to the scutellum and they do not have tympanal apparatuses. Their forelimbs are designed for life underground as nymphs.

The mature cicada's wings are translucent and have complex venation patterns. Its overall length usually ranges from 2 to 5 cm. With their huge eyes, they have great eyesight. Cicada species exhibit a wide variety of colors and patterns, from enigmatic browns and greens to eye-catching black and orange patterns.

Life Cycle and Reproduction

Different species have different life cycles, which makes cicadidae fascinating and varied. Here's a broad rundown:

  1. Egg Stage: Female cicadas cut slits in tree branches or wooden stems and place their eggs inside with their ovipositors. Depending on the species, this period of time might range from a few weeks to many months, during which these eggs hatch into small nymphs.
  2. Nymph Stage: Cicada nymphs are underground creatures that feed on the sap of tree roots. They puncture plant tissue with specially designed mouthparts in order to get nutrition. Nymphs usually go through many moults as they mature. Several years may pass during this subterranean stage, depending on the species.
  3. Emergence: After completing their growth, nymphs rise from the earth. When cicadidae gather in large numbers on a regular basis, they produce an amazing show called a "brood." The annual cicadas appear less often.
  4. Adult Stage: Cicada nymphs become adults once they emerge. With an average adult life span of a few weeks to a few months, these individuals don't have much time to find a spouse and have a family.
  5. Reproduction: Cicadas reproduce via complex courting rituals in which males scream out loudly to entice females. The life cycle is completed by females depositing eggs on tree branches or stems after mating.

Ecological Significance

Cicadidae are vital to the ecology of many different environments.

  • Nutrient cycle: They aid in the cycle of nutrients in forests by feeding on the sap from tree roots when they are nymphs. When they die and break down, their emergence also contributes to an increase in nutrients.
  • Predator Satiation: When cicadas erupt in large enough numbers, they satisfy predators, allowing enough individuals to live and procreate. It is believed that this tactic is an adaptation meant to lessen the pressure of predators.
  • Food Source: A variety of species, such as birds, mammals, and other insects, eat cicadidae. They play an essential role in the food webs of their particular environments.
  • Tree Health: Although cicadas may harm trees by depositing their eggs on branches, eating xylem sap does not usually have a negative impact on a tree's health. Some even contend that the pruning impact of egg-laying might encourage trees to sprout new branches.

Cultural Significance

Cicadas are deeply ingrained in many countries' cultures.

  • Symbolism: Cicadas are associated with immortality, longevity, and rebirth in various civilizations. They often relate to concepts of rebirth and metamorphosis.
  • Literature and Art: Throughout history, cicadidae have been depicted in mythology, literature, and art. They are the focus of tales, paintings, and poetry from many cultures.
  • Cuisine: Cicadas are eaten as food in several Asian nations where they are regarded as a delicacy. They are supposed to have a nutty flavor and are often fried, boiled, or roasted.
  • Scientific Study: A great deal of study has been done on cicadidae , which has improved our knowledge of entomology, acoustics, and ecology.

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