Hop a Little, Jump a Little, So We Learn!

“Chirp…chirp…chirp…click me if you can” went the tinny voice yet again, this time jumping from my left to the right. I had thumbed down the shutter speed to capture the sedate spider (full interview of Ms. Spinderella the spider in a forthcoming post) when a blurry blob suddenly started jumping across my field of view, taunting me thus in a singsong manner. Quite irritated, I lowered my camera and searched for the source of the voice. “Chirp…chirp…here I am big fella”, cried the voice as I looked down and found my tormentor.

“Oh, a cricket”, I started and was immediately hit by a tirade. “Ignorant oaf! How would you like it if I called you a chimpanzee? You humans have no value for any of your fellow creatures. To you, we are all the same – unwanted neighbours sharing your precious resources. You would gladly rid of all of us in one fair strike if it was so possible.” I was embarrassed no ends and tried to placate the ‘cricket’. “My sincere apologies but I had no intention of being hurtful. I am truly unaware what your kind is, and would be grateful if you could enlighten me”, I implored. It seemed to work a bit and he calmed down a little. “Alright, alright; you seem to be a genuine moron”, he chuckled, “I am Geronimo, and I am a grasshopper!”

Looking at my puzzled expression Geronimo continued, “Obviously, you will now ask me – cricket or grasshopper, what’s the difference? Well, we are cousins – sort of. See my antennae? While we grasshoppers have these real short ones, crickets have pretty long antennae, longer than their abdomens. While we grasshoppers are up and about during the day, crickets are nocturnal. We grasshoppers are vegetarians, while our mean cousins are omnivorous and predatory. While we detect sounds with ‘ears’ on the base of our abdomen, the listening apparatus of a cricket is on its front legs. And the most important part, while we grasshoppers stridulate – I mean sing – by rubbing our long hind legs against our wings, crickets do so by rubbing their wings together! Once you have seen us often and observed carefully, it would be easy to identify us with our large heads and five eyes!”

“Did you know that we grasshoppers have powerful wings and are actually good fliers? We jump to get a good air lift! Or that we are older than the dinosaurs, first appearing on earth over 300 million years ago? Or even that locusts are actually grasshoppers, those that in certain environments have changed their habits from being solitary to gregarious, forming swarms? Well, I could go on and on, but enough of this dawning awareness for you”, Geronimo beamed with obvious pride.

“But there is one detail which you, for one, would find interesting. Since our auditory system is quite simple, we are unable to distinguish the pitch of our songs. So, luckily for us males, even though our songs are not melodious the females frankly don’t give a damn”, Geronimo chuckled heartily, “But we do understand rhythm very well and can also detect change in its intensity. So we have to be quite rhythmic or else the ladies won’t give us a second glance!” Geronimo was quite enjoying himself now.

“All right human, I think my job is done and this should now make you curious enough to gain further knowledge by yourself. Now go along and have your chat with Ms. Spinderella there while I bask in the rising sun. Need to soak up on some energy for the long day ahead”, and so saying, Geronimo catapulted away upwards where the sun was just beginning to hit the top of the trees…

– Narendra Nayak © 2018

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