Document Type

Grand Teton National Park Report

First Page


Last Page



The Prophalangopsidae is an ancient insect family with fossil records dating back to the Jurassic period, approximately 180 million years ago (Vickery 1989). The family is believed to be ancestral to the ensiferan Orthoptera (crickets and katydids), a diverse and economically important group of insects (Morris & Gwynne 1978). Although fossil records indicate that the Prophalangopsidae was once a diverse, widely distributed and abundant group of insects, the family is now nearly extinct. It is represented in North America by a single relict genus (Cyphoderris) containing three species, by a single species in the Soviet Far East, and by a single species in India that is known only by a single specimen (Vickery 1989). By way of contrast, an allied family, the Gryllidae (true crickets), contains over 2600 species worldwide, distributed across 14 subfamilies (Walker 1989). The decline of the Prophalangopsidae is poorly understood, although climatic changes accompanying the Pleistocene glaciation are considered one possible factor (Vickery 1989). The three extant North American species occur only in the western US and Canada. One of these, the sagebrush cricket (Cyphoderris strepitans), is known only from a few mountainous areas in Wyoming and Colorado, including Grand Teton National Park (Morris & Gwynne 1978). Despite the prevalence and apparent homogeneity of the sagebrush-dominated habitat within which C. strepitans occurs, sagebrush crickets are patchily distributed within GTNP (pers. obs.), perhaps owing to their low vagility (sagebrush crickets are cumbersome walkers lacking flight ability) and/or to restrictive microhabitat requirements. Intensive studies concerning the natural history, population biology and behavioral ecology of sagebrush crickets have been ongoing in GTNP since 1978 when the species was first named (e.g., Morris & Gwynne 1978, Dodson et al. 1983, Sakaluk et al. 1987, Morris et al. 1989, Sakaluk & Snedden 1990). In recent work, we have attempted to identify the selective forces contribution to the evolution of the species' unique mating system and life history.