Tiny New Species Hops Around Belize

<i>Ripipteryx mopana</i>
This is the new insect, Ripipteryx mopana named in honor of the Mopan people. (Image credit: Sam W. Heads, Steven J. Taylor)

A newfound species of a tiny, grasshopperlike insect seems to be quite lonely, being the first of its family to be discovered in Belize, according to researchers.

Scientists from the University of Illinois found the little hopper in the tropical rain forests of southern Belize and named it Ripipteryx mopana, after a tribe of Mayans native to the region known as the Mopan people. The grasshopperlike species uses its large jumping hind legs to escape predators.

The tiny guy, measuring less than 0.2 inches (5 millimeters) in length is "the first representative of its family ever to be found in Belize," study researcher Sam Heads said in a statement. "Given the amount of high-quality habitats in the region, it isn't really surprising that new species still await discovery, especially in the less-explored areas."

The family, called Ripipterygidae, also includes species of grasshoppers, crickets and katydids.

The new species was detailed online Feb. 10 in the journal Zookeys.

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Jennifer Welsh

Jennifer Welsh is a Connecticut-based science writer and editor and a regular contributor to Live Science. She also has several years of bench work in cancer research and anti-viral drug discovery under her belt. She has previously written for Science News, VerywellHealth, The Scientist, Discover Magazine, WIRED Science, and Business Insider.