A multinational group of entomologists led by Dr Thomas Hertach from the University of Basel has discovered a new species of singing cicada that occurs from southern Switzerland to central Italy.
Cicadas belong to the order Hemiptera, families Cicadidae or Tettigarctidae (only two species).
Male cicadas sing to attract females. Many produce loud, shrill buzzing noises by flexing their tymbals, which are drum-like organs found in their abdomens. Most cicadas are long-lived and may take 2 to 5 years to become full grown.
Currently, there are more than 2,500 recognized species of cicada, and many remain to be described.
The newly-discovered species has been named the Italian mountain cicada (Cicadetta sibillae).
“The species name ‘sibillae’ is genitive of ‘sibilla’, and is derived from the locality name Monte Sibilla in the Monti Sibillini mountain group (Marche Region). The geographically closest local population is situated at the northern edge of the Central Apenninian metapopulation. In addition, the name is indicative to the wife of the first author, with her first name being Sibille,” Dr Hertach and his colleagues wrote in a paper published in the Zoological Journal of the Linnean Society.
“In the Northern Apennine, Cicadetta sibillae is surprisingly the most common singing cicada found”, Dr Hertach said.
The species inhabits sparse, warm deciduous forests and poor grassland with lots of bushes. Sitting in shrubs or on the grass, the insects sing their songs and feed off plant sap.
The scientists said: “the Italian mountain cicada evolved at least 1 million years ago during the glacial period and has its origin in mild Italian refugia.”