Researchers say they have discovered a new type of cricket in the Grand Canyon-Parashant National Monument, located in a remote strip of land on the Utah-Arizona border.
The cricket was discovered in samples taken from the area last spring by Kyle Voyles, a state of Arizona cave coordinator and a physical science technician with the Bureau of Land Management, and J. Judson Wynne, a Northern Arizona University doctoral candidate.
Voyles and Wynne spent time surveying 24 caves and taking samples from 15.
"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. A genus is a broader category in the classification of animals; it can encompass many related species.
The monument is under joint management of the BLM and the National Park Service and covers more than 1,600 square miles of land on what's known as the Arizona Strip. The area's deep canyons, mountains and red rock buttes are cut off from the rest of Arizona by the Grand Canyon at its south border.
"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."
The new cricket was found in the first sample bottle. Voyles said Theodore Cohn, an entomologist with San Diego State University, identified the crickets as a new genus.
In addition to the possible new genus of cricket, four new species of crickets have been identified from the spring samples. A barklouse also was found in the caves. Though common in South America, this was the first one discovered in North America, Voyles said.
Previous cave trips yielded two new species of millipedes within three miles of each other.
What makes the yet-to-be-named new genus of cricket special is that it has pincers on its hind end. The pincers are functional, but it is not known why they have them nor what purpose they serve.
The discovery at the monument, which was dedicated in January, may draw attention to caves that are largely overlooked in an area where the inhabitants have to learn to adapt to harsh living conditions.
Jeff Bradybaugh, 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. "This might attract funding from nongovernment sources and help develop partnerships with universities to continue the research."