Posts Tagged ‘evolution’

Helmets!

My niece has a doll with a bonnet.  It looks like it’s wearing a helmet.  So she named it Baby Helmet.  It turns out, that these guys have helmets too.

Photo Courtesy of Greg Lasley

This is a treehopper, in the family Membracidae.  This species is the Thorn Treehopper, Umbonia crassicornis, found in the Southern United States.  The helmet is the pretty green, yellow, and pink structure that creates the thorn-like appearance.  A recent article published in Nature found that the helmet is an appendage arising from the first thoracic segment.  Somehow it’s “escaped” the repressive function of the gene that leads to wing formation.  It’s almost as if treehoppers had a third pair of wings.  But not quite, they’re just wing-like.  They’re fused together, not used for flight, practical for mimicry, and in my opinion, make treehoppers look really cute.  Bug Girl has a great explanation of homology and summary of the article if you’re looking for more.

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