Apparently cicadas serenaded the dinosaurs! Entomologist and Mount St. Joseph professor Gene Kritsky shared the news today that cicadas lived as long as 110 million years ago during the Cretaceous period.
A quote from a press release:
New research has documented that cicadas, those noisy insects that sing during the dog days of summer, have been screaming since the time of the dinosaurs.
A fossil of the oldest definitive cicada to be discovered was described by George Poinar, Jr., Ph.D., professor of zoology at Oregon State University and Gene Kritsky, Ph.D., professor of biology, at the College of Mount St. Joseph in Cincinnati. The cicada, measuring 1.26 mm in length, was named Burmacicada protera.
Read the full Press Release on the MSJ website.
Here is a photo of the ancient Burmacicada protera cicada nymph trapped in amber. Photo credit: George Poinar, Jr., Ph.D.
It looks a lot like a modern-day first-instar cicada nymph.
Update: Here’s a video news story about Gene’s fossil find.
I need a step-up my fossil collecting hobby. It looks like there’s some places in New Jersey to find fossils. Maybe I’ll find a cicada.
Here’s a photo of first instar Magicicada nymphs by Roy Troutman:
Here is video of a 1st instar magicicada nymph crawling around taken just minutes after it crawled from its egg sack:
1st instar magicicada nymph from Roy Troutman.
1st instar magicicada nymph in slow motion by Roy:
1st instar magicicada nymph in slow motion from Roy Troutman.
So, what do cicada larvae look like? Technically they’re called nymphs, not larvae. When cicadas progress from one stage of development to another, they molt, rather than pupate. Each stage of development is called an instar. Most, if not all, cicadas go through five instars. The adult phase is the fifth instar.
First, here’s what their eggs look like:
When the eggs hatch, the cicadas don’t look like a grub or maggot as you might expect; instead they look like tiny termites or ants, with 6 legs and antennae. At this point, they’re called first instar nymphs.
Here’s some first instar cicadas:
Here is a first and second instar cicada in the soil:
Here is a first, second, third and fourth instar:
If you are interested in participating in cicada nymph research, visit The Simon Lab Nymph Tracking Project page for more information. You must have had periodical cicadas on your property in past 13 or 17 years to find the nymphs — not including the Brood II area since those nymphs came out of the ground this year.