New cricket found at national monument [TheSpectrum 2006-07-25]
[Photo] J. Judson "Jut" Wynne collects insect species. A new cricket was found at the Grand Canyon-Parashant National Monument A new genus of cricket, shown above, was found at the Grand Canyon-Parashant National Monument. Copyright ??2006 The Spectrum, St. George
HURRICANE - Remote and rugged, the 1,054,264 acres that make up the Grand Canyon-Parashant National Monument are widely unexplored.
That may change, however, since the discovery of a new genus of cricket.
What makes the yet-to-be-named cricket special is that it has pinchers similar to an earwig's on the hind end. The pincers, or cerci, are functional, but the question is, "Why do they have them and what purpose do they serve?"
"Finding a new species is one thing, but finding a new genus is beyond my wildest dream," Kyle Voyles, a state of Arizona cave coordinator said. "There's a whole lot of unknown on the strip and the monument and caves themselves are always overlooked."
Voyles, who also works as a physical science technician with the Bureau of Land Management, and J. Judson Wynne, a Northern Arizona University doctoral candidate, spent time last spring surveying 24 caves, taking samples from 15.
The new genus of cricket was found in the only sample bottle that has been researched so far and Voyles is understandably excited.
Voyles said Theodore Cohn, an entomologist with San Diego State University, identified the crickets as a new genus.
The discovery at the monument, which is managed jointly by the National Park Service and the Bureau of Land Management, may draw attention to caves that are largely overlooked in an area where the inhabitants have to learn to adapt to harsh living conditions. Voyles proposed a baseline study to survey and inventory caves on the monument, which was dedicated in January 2000.
The project would include looking at the paleontology, hydrology, geology, biology and archeological features of the caves.
"It was primarily for biology - checking for invertebrates and collecting specimens," Voyles said.
In addition to the pincer cricket, four new species of crickets and a barklouse were also found in the caves. Although the barklouse is common in South America, it was the first one discovered in North America, Voyles said.
The initial baseline survey was conducted by setting up invertebrate traps - some baited, some not - for 72 hours.
Voyles said this "opportunistic collecting" was the first time it was done in northern Arizona for invertebrates. Only 24 caves were searched out of literally hundreds on the Arizona Strip. This isn't the first time new species have been discovered in remote areas along the Arizona Strip.
Previous cave trips yielded two new species of millipedes within three miles of each other.
Jeff Bradybaugh, park service superintendent of the Grand Canyon-Parashant National Monument, said the discoveries are very exciting.
"It points to some of the uniqueness of the area and the undiscovered natural resources," Bradybaugh said. "Not a great deal of survey work has been completed for some groups of organisms and habitats - caves being a good example."
Since caves are protected on federal land and because they are remote and relatively inaccessible, Bradybaugh doesn't foresee a problem with protecting the areas, although the cave locations remain disclosed.
But the discovery may help secure funding for the monument.
"This provides additional justification for funding proposals and when the word gets out, it raises interest," Bradybaugh said. "This might attract funding from non-government sources and help develop partnerships with universities to continue the research."
But for Voyles, whose license plate reads "cave man," the adventure of exploring caves - some entered for the first time by man - was, in itself, an experience.
"One thing I love about the Arizona Strip is its untouched, untapped natural resources," Voyles said. "It may not be a big tourist draw but there are a lot of potentially big important discoveries out there."