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Protean Shieldback

Protean Shieldback (Atlanticus testaceus)

Occurrence

Uncommon in our area, but more common in southern Ohio.

Habitat

Shrubby meadows and woodland edges

Range

I have only found them in Summit County at the Cleveland Museum of Natural History’s Singer Lake Bog to date, but they may be elsewhere in the southern part of our region.

Physical description

Shieldbacks look significantly different from other katydids, as they typically have very stocky brown bodies with a large, round abdomen and a pronotum that extends along the back and side of the thorax as if it were a shield. They blend perfectly with leaf litter.

Protean Shieldback male
Protean Shieldback female

Song

Unlike the series of short rattles sung by the Least Shieldback, the Protean Shieldback sings a long, rattling song several seconds in duration, followed by a short pause before resuming. They sing at night but can be found before dark.

Protean Shieldback - Recording by Lisa Rainsong
00:00 / 00:00

Adult season

End of June and into July, but since they are not common in our area, their dates here are unclear.

General description and context

These katydids live in shrubby meadows and woodland edges. They may be found at ground level, but will also climb into shrubs and dense meadow vegetation.

Similar species

The Least Shieldback looks similar to the Protean Shieldback, but its wings and pronotum are a little shorter. The Least’s song is a series of short, rhythmic bursts of rattles, while the Protean’s song is fairly continuous rattle with short, irregular pauses.

Protean Shieldbacks mating

Field observation

I’ve had the good fortune to spend time with these shieldbacks well south of NE Ohio – specifically Buzzards Roost Nature Preserve in the Ross County Park District, Chillicothe. They are common and fairly easy to find there, and I actually watched a female prepare to eat a Japanese beetle that was in the process of mating (see my Listening in Nature post on this species or the shieldback information page here

Listening in Nature post:

http://listeninginnature.blogspot.com/2016/07/the-predatory-katydid.html

 

Songs of Insect:

http://songsofinsects.com/katydids/protean-shieldback

 

Singing Insects of North America

http://www.entnemdept.ufl.edu/walker/buzz/288a.htm

Nature Inquiries

https://natureinquiries.wordpress.com/2017/07/13/closing-the-book-on-protean-shieldbacks