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Species Spharagemon cristatum - Ridgeback grasshopper

Grasshopper sp. at LBJ Wildflower Center - Spharagemon cristatum - male grasshopper, brown with many spots - Spharagemon cristatum Ridgeback grasshopper - Spharagemon cristatum - male Boll's Grasshopper - Spharagemon cristatum - male Hopper nymph  - Spharagemon cristatum AHN - Spharagemon cristatum Spharagemon cristatum - female Spharagemon cristatum - male
Classification
Kingdom Animalia (Animals)
Phylum Arthropoda (Arthropods)
Subphylum Hexapoda (Hexapods)
Class Insecta (Insects)
Order Orthoptera (Grasshoppers, Crickets, Katydids)
Suborder Caelifera (Grasshoppers)
Family Acrididae (Short-horned Grasshoppers)
Subfamily Oedipodinae (Band-winged Grasshoppers)
Tribe Trimerotropini
Genus Spharagemon
Species cristatum (Ridgeback grasshopper)
Synonyms and other taxonomic changes
Spharagemon cristatum Scudder, 1875, described from Belfrage, Texas
Spharagemon collare subspecies cristatum (Scudder) Rehn, 1932
Explanation of Names
Prior to about 1984, this species was mostly not recognized as distinct from S. collare and was generally listed as a synonym or as probably not distinct. Descriptions and maps for S. collare often combined the two. See more under "Remarks" below.
Identification
Brownish or grayish grasshopper usually somewhat speckled with darker color, sometimes with indications of broken dark bands across the tegmina. Wings yellow with a bold curving dark cross band that has a spur pointing toward the base. With hind tibiae orange to red. Pronotum with a prominent arching median crest that is cut only once and with the cut usually diagonal, not perpendicular. Those in less sandy or more vegetated habitats tend to be less speckled, more even, and often darker in coloring. These more "even" colored populations are more likely to have individuals with the "collared" phase that has pale whitish or tan on the rear of the pronotum, sides of the face, legs, etc. This color phase is less common in this "species" than in more northern S. collare.

Is distinguished from S. collare only by more southerly distribution and somewhat higher pronotal crest, together with the rear angle of the pronotum averaging somewhat more accute.

S. bolli and S. crepitans have the pronotal ridge more straight along the top edge in profile, with the cut nearer to vertical (oblique in this species, and often with the front and back sides of the notch overlapping a bit). Also, these two usually have a dark ring near the base of the hind tibiae, which is lacking or only faintly indicated on S. cristatum.

Dissosteira carolina and D. longipennis are larger with longer wings, they do not have reddish hind tibiae, and both have black (not yellow) hind wings.

Arphia species do not have the pronotal crest deeply cut, do not have reddish hind tibiae, and the dark wing band of the hind wing follows around the outer margin instead of crossing the middle. Also, wings are often of other colors, not only yellow.
Range
Roughly south of a line from North Carolina to southeast Colorado, and from the Atlantic coast to the east base of the Rocky Mountains and central Mountains of New Mexico. South well into northeastern Mexico. However, whether real or simply because the insects are more rare there, there seems to be a large gap in the combined distributions of S. collare & cristatum in roughly the Ozark - Cumberland - Appalachian region (and valleys in between), with S. collare ranging around the north side, [i]S. cristatum around the south side, and the two meeting and blending on either side.
Habitat
Sandy areas, often on sand bars of stream beds, near lake shores, in dune areas, along sandy roads or ditch banks, etc.
Remarks
The distinction between S. cristatum and S. collare as species is weak, and based on perceived behavioral differences (that may or may not be constant) along with larger size and slightly different shape of southern populations as compared to northern. Across the central Great Plains from the Rockies to the southern Ozarks, these characteristics blend, and individuals are often difficult to place into one "species" or the other, because most are intermediate in character. The same is seen in the Carolinas along the eastern seaboard, and can perhaps also be seen in regions between. However, neither species is often seen from the Ozarks to the Appalachians, and may be missing from much of the region from the Gulf Coastal Plain north through to Ohio Valley.

Spharagemon cristatum are usually a noisy fliers, producing a loud sharp nearly continuous buzzing. They can fly silently, and females are more likely to be quiet than males.
See Also
Spharagemon collare