I am always in search for brightly and special coloured animals, especially pink animals. I was therefore stunned to find there exist brightly coloured pink insects. Yes, pink insects! In the family of katydids which consists of more than 6400 species, a rare colour morph exists which is bubblegum pink!
Normally katydids are green and somewhat leaf-shaped, allowing them to blend in nicely with the foliage. They are so well camouflaged that they are very hard to see. However, their song, by which it got its name, makes them easy to recognize: “Katy did, Katy did, Katy didn’t”. As most insects, they ‘sing’ by running one wing along the teeth at the bottom of the other wing, a method called stridulation.
So why would a normally green insect be pink?
The pink coloration of the katydids is the result of a condition called erythrism, an unusual reddish pigmentation, and is similar to albinism where the condition is due to recessive genes. (mutation? recessive genes? Learn more about it here.) The same apparently is true for pink katydids, however still very little scientific data exists on this beautiful variant.
Although most people would probably say a pink insect looks nicer than a green one, it gives it a real disadvantage in its natural habitat of green plants and trees. It is just too easy for a predator to detect. However, the pink insects have one safe haven: pink and red flowers. So if it manages to find those before being spotted by a hungry predator, it might live another day to sing its characteristic song: “katy did katy did”.
Update: I recently received an email from a father and his son who found a bright red katydid in the North Cumberland Wildlife Management Area. I had never heard of a completely red katydid before, but I expect that the reddish pigmentation resulting from the erythrism is even stronger in the individuals they found. The Audubon Insectarium New Orleans now keeps a couple specimen for further study. Thanks to Shawn Philips for bringing this up!