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CERCOPIDAE
FROGHOPPERS or SPITTLEBUGS

Real insect embedded in clear epoxy resin

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Classification

Phylum Arthropoda

Class Insecta

Order Hemiptera

Suborder Auchenorrhyncha

Superfamily Cercopoidea

Family Cercopidae

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Cercopoidea: Epipygidae (PDF)

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CERCOPIDAE

Cercopoidea (froghoppers & spittlebugs) are characterized by the combination of morphological characters: head with frontoclypeus inflated; median ocellus absent; ocelli on crown distant from margin; pronotum extended to scutellar suture; body clothed with fine setae; hind coxae conical, tibia without rows of setae but often with one or more conspicuous spines; male subgenital plate present. The superfamily comprises four families Aphrophoridae, Cercopidae, Clastopteridae, and Macherotidae. The first Cercopoidea (Procercopidae) appear in the fossil record during the Lower Jurassic.

Approximately 2500 species and 330 genera of Cercopoidea have been described. The classification has not been revised in over 50 years, and the phylogenetic status of most cercopoid genera and higher taxa remains unknown.

Snake spit, Cuckoo Spit, Frog spit are names for these bubbly masses of foam that are seen on grasses, wildflowers, and even in trees. This mixture of ingredients is resilient enough to last for days and to stay intact through heavy rainstorms.

Production of spittle is a unique characteristic of Cercopoidea. The nymphs introduce bubbles of air into their liquid excretion by bellowslike contractions of this device; periodically the tip of the abdomen is extended through the surface of spittle mass to channel air into the cavity. The same air supply is used for breathing via spiracles that open into the ventral cavity.

The function of the spittle mass is not completely understood. It is usually assumed that it protects the insect from predators and desiccation.

Species of Cercopoidea are often restricted to particular habitats, but many if not most seem to be capable of utilizing a variety of host plants. Members of the superfamily Cercopoidea occur worldwide.


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