Cicada Mania

Dedicated to cicadas, the most amazing insects in the world.

Cicada T-shirts

September 17, 2016

What is Megatibicen?!

Filed under: Allen F. Sanborn | David Marshall | Maxine E. Heath | Megatibicen | Neotibicen — Dan @ 9:39 am

Update (9/20): I guessed the species correctly: all the Large Flute Players.

Update (9/24): I neglected to note that there’s another paper out there by Young June Lee called Description of three new genera, Paratibicen, Megatibicen, and Ameritibicen, of Cryptotympanini (Hemiptera: Cicadidae) and a key to their species. Link to it here. This manuscript goes beyond one new genus, and instead introduces three: Paratibicen, Megatibicen, and Ameritibicen. Lee’s paper differs from Sanborn & Heath in that the large Neotibicen are spit into Megatibicen and Ameritibicen in Young’s document, but they’re all Megatibicen in Sanborn & Heath’s paper.


Last night I had a rough night’s sleep. I tossed and turned all night long. I remember looking at the clock and seeing 4 am, and thinking “tomorrow is ruined”. Sometime during the night I dreamt of finding thousands of molted Neotibicen exuvia clinging to shrubbery — a rare if not impossible sight in real life.

When I woke I checked my email and found a communication from David Marshall. David is well known and respected in the cicada world for many things including describing the 7th species of Magicicada with John Cooley, as well as being part of the team who defined the Neotibicen and Hadoa genera (link to paper)1.

David wrote to let me know that Allen F. Sanborn and Maxine S. Heath had published a new paper titled: Megatibicen n. gen., a new North American cicada genus (Hemiptera: Cicadidae: Cicadinae: Cryptotympanini), 2016, Zootaxa Vol 4168, No 3.(link).

So, what is MEGATIBICEN? Assumptions after the abstract.

Here is the abstract:

The genus Tibicen has had a confusing history (see summary in Boulard and Puissant 2014; Marshall and Hill 2014; Sanborn 2014). Boulard and his colleague (Boulard 1984; 1988; 1997; 2001; 2003; Boulard and Puissant 2013; 2014; 2015) have argued for the suppression of Tibicen and the taxa derivatived from it in favor of Lyristes Horváth. Boulard’s argument for suppression was first described in Melville and Sims (1984) who presented the case for suppression to the International Commission on Zoological Nomenclature with further comments made by Hamilton (1985), Boulard (1985), and Lauterer (1985). A lack of action resulted in additional comments being published in 2014 again supporting the retention (Sanborn 2014; Marshall and Hill 2014) or the suppression (Boulard and Puissant 2014) of Tibicen.

My guess, without reading the document, is that Megatibicen includes the larger North America Neotibicen species, including the “auletes group” (M. auletes, M. resh, M. figuratus, M. resonans), the “pronotalis group” (M. pronotalis, M. dealbatus, M. cultriformis) and the “dorsatus group” (M. dorsatus, M. tremulus), or a mix of these. M. auletes is the largest cicada in North America. “Mega” is the Greek word for “very large” or “great”. Word is that Kathy Hill and David Marshall also planned on describing a Megatibicen genus at one point, as well.

Whenever cicada names change it causes feelings of bemusement, discontentment, and discomfort amongst some cicada researchers and fans. I know I don’t like it because I have to update the names of cicadas in 100’s of places on this website ;). Some folks simply disagree with the folks writing the paper. Some people prefer former names because they sound nicer (e.g. N. chloromerus vs N. tibicen tibicen). Some people simply do not like change.

Related: Here’s my article on when Neotibicen & Hadoa were established from Tibicen.

1 Hill, et al. Molecular phylogenetics, diversification, and systematics of Tibicen Latreille 1825 and allied cicadas of the tribe Cryptotympanini, with three new genera and emphasis on species from the USA and Canada (Hemiptera: Auchenorrhyncha: Cicadidae) 2015, Zootaxa 3985 (2): 219—251.


  1. elias says:

    I am with you Fred. I will even go back further- leave the “gender disagreement” issue behind and bring back Tibicen chloromera :-)These genera will devolve further.

  2. Dave says:

    Actually I confused one point above – taxonomy is not really my field. If the decision had been made to sink existing genera to leave one large genus with all of the western Asian plus North American cryptotympanines, the oldest existing name would have taken priority (and it wouldn’t have been Tibicen for the first reason given). Not sure which one, possibly Cryptotympana. Would have to check the catalogue.

  3. Dave says:

    Hi Fred –

    The reason for the changes is that the formal system of biological nomenclature is supposed to reflect “natural” groups, which means sets of species related by exclusive common ancestry. Once the DNA (and, later, morphology) showed that the USA Tibicen species were not particularly related to the type species of Tibicen (which is found in Europe), it became necessary for at least one new genus to be created for those species. And in this case at least two were needed, because the eastern USA species are more closely related to Asian genera like Cryptotympana than they are to the western USA species. The alternative would have been to sink Cryptotympana and Raiateana and such into a new, redefined genus containing all of the North American species as well. Either way, names were going to change.

    However, the question of how many new genera to create, within a larger group, is always open to dispute. In theory at least, somebody could create a new name for every “node” in the tree of life. And, in contrast, we could have left all of the cicadas around the world in in the original genus, Cicada. At the moment the “lumpers” do seem to be losing to the “splitters” with respect to USA Tibicen.

    This shows why it would be useful if we had well-established common names for our cicadas, like we do for songbirds. Those don’t need to change as much with changing information on relationships.

    1. david emery says:

      go the Aussies for our common names through nomenclature changes!! Looks like a “Mega-tibicen discussion”brewing on this one!! Glad I am “down-under”!

      1. Dave says:

        Very much so. From what I’ve been able to read so far, since Lee’s paper is still only available as an in press accepted manuscript (i.e., not the final version to be published), it may not be Code-compliant (online preliminary versions like this are apparently not allowed to make names available, for starters). So even though Lee’s paper became publicly available online two days before Sanborn and Heath’s Megatibicen paper was formally published, Sanborn and Heath’s Megatibicen genus will have priority, and Lee’s Megatibicen genus will be “preoccupied” by Megatibicen S&H and therefore unavailable. Furthermore, since Lee’s new genus Ameritibicen names the type species of Megatibicen S&H (dealbatus) as an included species, it apparently will become a synonym of Megatibicen (once Lee’s paper is published in final form). If this is all correct, then once Lee 2016 is finalized it will actually be introducing only one new genus with priority (Paratibicen).

        1. david emery says:

          Cheers Dave and hope you are enjoying an USA summer again! Yes, I wondered about the sequence of on-line versions from accepted, through uncorrected proof to final article. However, I do remember an earlier discussion on Entomology-Cicadidae regarding all of this Tibicen imbroglio!
          best wishes,

  4. Fred Berry says:

    Leave the names alone! I have no interest in seeing some geeks tacking their own names to this genus. It is NOT “Neotibicen” nor is it “Megatibicen”. It is Tibicen only. It is Tibicen Chloromerus, though in this case, because of major differences, this species needs a new family name, as they differ in many ways from real Tibicen.

    Do studies on cicadas, but do NOT change their original scientific names!

Leave a comment. Questions about plants or snakes are deleted.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Cicada T-shirts