What is going on with the Phaneropterinae??

You may have noticed that I've been going through all of the Australian katydid observations recently, trying to put better IDs on them and working out what we can and can't ID from photos. It's been really great to see just how many species we have here on iNat, including some that have probably never been photographed alive before.

Despite having 14 subfamilies in Australia, two subfamilies absolutely dominate the observations - Conocephalinae and Phaneropterinae. Out of all the katydid observations in Australia, about 25% are Conocephalinae (and 15% are just Conocephalus) and a staggering 55% are Phaneropterinae. So the remaining 12 subfamilies make up just 20% of our sightings.

Understandably, I left these two subfamilies until last, and I've just finished up with all the Conocephalinae (finally!). Unfortunately though, these two subfamilies are the most poorly-known in Australia. The 12 other subfamilies have been thoroughly reviewed in recent times by Rentz et al., and there has been some work done in the Conocephalinae at least. Of the five tribes, the Coniungopterini and Armadillagraeciini are well-known (only a few species anyway), the Copiphorini were revised by Bailey (1979), the Agraeciini have received a decent amount of recent work by Rentz et al., and the Conocephalini are still a bit of a mess but at least somewhat doable.

No such luck with the Phaneropterinae though unfortunately. The subfamily is a complete and utter mess, and I'm excited to reveal to you all that I am currently planning a PhD to resolve some of this mess! :D
For the meantime though it will remain incredibly messy. Not only are there numerous undescribed species, but most of the names that already exist cannot be reliably assigned to species. There are also a number of persistent misidentifications that have spread through the literature and out to places like iNat as well.

So in the near future, as I begin going through the phaneropterines, expect a few shakeups of some taxa you think you might know well. A lot of things will change, and I might go back and forth on a few things as I try to interpret old holotypes and short descriptions :P

Most of the time a detailed explanation of things just isn't going to be possible but I will try my best if it's not too complicated to explain. Otherwise I suggest directing people back to this post so that they understand what is happening!

I've been hard at work trying to figure out exactly which species have been recorded from Australia and where they're currently placed, and it's clear that there are a very great number of completely different issues. We have species recorded from Australia in error (e.g. Zulpha perlaria), genera present but not officially recorded from Australia (e.g. Agnapha), taxa recorded from Australia and then promptly forgotten (e.g. Phaneroptera brevis), incorrectly synonymised names (e.g. Torbia pruinosa), complexes of nearly identical species (e.g. Caedicia acutifolia), species placed in the wrong genus (e.g. Elephantodeta pinguis), persistent misidentifications of extremely common species (e.g. Polichne parvicauda), misidentifications of entire genera (e.g. Symmachis), overzealous identifications of supposedly common species (e.g. Caedicia simplex), and names that have been associated with Australian species through voodoo and black magic (e.g. Paracaedicia serrata).

Very few taxa will not be affected by these changes. Everything is just such a mess. At least Acripeza is exactly what we think it is. Hopefully.

So yes, as things change there will be a lot of observations to update and I just won't be able to explain the reasoning a lot of the time beyond a simple statement of "this is what the holotype is" or something like that. I'll try to explain where I can, but I think just directing people back to this post will be the most helpful option.

A number of species are actually species complexes with only one described species, so in these cases I'll be adding species complex taxa with only a single species in them, and trying to differentiate the species where I can. I'll also be making lots of annotations in observation fields to track species that may or may not be named, and once I'm done I'll add them all here and that should work for tracking purposes.

To start with I'll just be going through and taking out some easy species, and then sorting some of the remainders into broader groupings that I can tackle one at a time. So a number of sightings may go through several 'rounds' of more and more precise IDs. Or they might just get stuck at Phaneropterinae :/

Of particular note here is the genus Ephippitytha. Quite a large number of species have actually been described in the genus and yet we only really think of two of them. There is a good reason for this - E. kuranda is certainly distinct, but Rentz is of the opinion that most/all of the others are just local forms of E. trigintiduoguttata. I have not looked closely at specimens yet but for the most part I would agree with this assessment. However, the names are still valid for now and one or more may turn out to be actually distinct. So if I can, I will try to split these off from E. trigintiduoguttata. Does this mean that they are actually valid? No, and in all likelihood none of them will be valid. But it does mean we can accurately track the different morphs and see if there are some patterns. So I will do my best to work out which morphs these names actually refer to, and we can see where that leads us.

So... that's all for now. I shall see where this dive into the most complicated of the subfamilies takes me, and hopefully we will find some interesting results!

Posted on October 15, 2023 05:33 AM by matthew_connors matthew_connors


First run through done, with all the easy species taken out. And now the complications begin!

Posted by matthew_connors 3 months ago

Second run through done, with two easy-ish species pairs taken out.

Posted by matthew_connors 3 months ago

Third run through done, taking out the island species. Now we get to the things that are incorrect and don't make any sense. Yay -_-

Posted by matthew_connors 3 months ago

Fourth run through done, with all the Taeniomenae gone through. There are a huge number of undescribed species, and I've catalogued everything here so that we can track the undescribed species too.

Posted by matthew_connors about 2 months ago

Fifth run through done (it's actually been done for a while, whoops!), in which I redefine everyone's notion of E. trigintiduoguttata. Now comes the long and arduous task of adding an observation field to every single phaneropterine observation. I'm about halfway through as I write this (only 4000 to go!)

Posted by matthew_connors 6 days ago

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