A bright pink grasshopper was spotted in a Texas garden last week by an Austin resident and her young son. No, the grasshopper hadn’t got bored of winter and decided to embrace the colors of spring, sometimes grasshoppers do come in pink.
The fancy little critter was discovered by Allison Barger’s 3-year-old son in their garden, thanks to its unusual coloring making it stand out. Barger sent photos into local news station KXAN, and from there, its fame has spread.
While definitely rare and unusual, the striking hue of this bubblegum pink hopper is not actually unique. The color is down to a genetic mutation called erythrism related to the overproduction of red pigments and the underproduction of dark pigments, caused by a recessive gene – much like that for albinism, melanism, and leucism.
Erythrism has been seen in a variety of animals, from a “strawberry blond” leopard in South Africa to a snake in Georgia, and though it is indeed rare, it most often seems to crop up in grasshoppers, with people spotting them from Japan to Ireland, and now Texas. It was first documented in 1887 in a katydid species, and is usually only seen in nymphs – young grasshoppers – as many don’t make it to adulthood thanks to their color shining a spotlight on them.
Pink is definitely the color to be seen in this season, as another rosy-hued wonder took the world by storm recently. First spotted back in 2015, the world's only known pink manta ray – nicknamed Inspector Clouseau after the bumbling character in the Pink Panther – who resides in Australia, was back in the spotlight recently when photographer Kristian Laine snapped him in the waters around Lady Elliot Island and shared the pictures on Instagram.
Pink grasshoppers may be rarely spotted because without their greeny-brown camouflage that allows them to fade into the foliage, they are easy targets for hopper-munching predators. That doesn't mean all grasshoppers want to be wallflowers though.
South Africa's Elegant grasshopper (Zonocerus elegans) either didn't get the memo or is too fabulous to care.