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Archived content - Cicada (10 of 46)

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B. Understanding cicadas (Continued)

5C. Modern Relatives

Cicadas are members of a group of "true bugs" known as "short-horned" bugs or Auchenorrhyncha. These are jumping insects with tiny antennae. They include planthoppers (Fulgoroidea), cicadas, leafhoppers (Cicadellidae), spittle bugs (Cercopidae), and treehoppers (Membracidae) which together constitute the cicada-like bugs (Cicadomorpha). These belong to the same insect order as "true bugs", as is most clearly shown by their elaborately modified sucking mouthparts (Section 6B).

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Planthopper (Fulgoroidea)
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Leafhopper (Cicadellidae)
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Spittlebug (Cercopidae)
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Treehopper (Membracidae)

The exact relationships among these insects continues to be debated, without clear resolution. Planthoppers (recognized most easily by vertical ridges on the face) are not closely related to Cicadomorpha. They have a counter-current filter in their gut to eliminate excess water from their diet, quite unlike the elaborate "filter chamber" (Section 6C) of Cicadomorpha; and they jump by means of muscles in the thorax that rotate the leg base (coxa) by attached trumpet-shaped internal cuticular processes (apodemes), whereas in Cicadomorpha the jumping is performed by muscles within the leg base that move only the leg itself.

That treehoppers are highly modified leafhoppers is now widely accepted, and the two families are now placed together in the superfamily Membracoidea. But whether cicadas are more closely related to leafhoppers or to spittle bugs remained uncertain until extinct relatives (Section 5B) were found to have legs Footnote 1 like those of leafhoppers. This surprising connection between cicadas and leafhoppers was supported by the finding that primitive leafhoppers of the family Myerslopiidae Footnote 2 have male characters (primarily the theca) very similar to those of cicadas. Preliminary genetic analysis is still unable to resolve this matter, as some studies place Myerslopiidae together with leafhoppers Footnote 3, while others place Myerslopiids together with spittle bugs Footnote 4.

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Drawing and photo of two primitive leafhoppers of the family Myerslopiidae
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