Facts about the animal kingdom

Orthoptera - Examples & Key Body Parts

María Luz Thurman
By María Luz Thurman, Biologist/ornithologist. June 6, 2024
Orthoptera - Examples & Key Body Parts

Orthoptera is an order of insects that includes over 20,000 described species, such as grasshoppers, crickets, locusts, and related species. They are known for their ability to jump, thanks to their hind legs, which are significantly longer and more muscular than their front and middle legs. They are also known for their ability to produce sounds by rubbing parts of their body together. Additionally, they play a critical role in our environment.

This AnimalWised article explores Orthoptera: what they are, their key characteristics, common examples, and the different body parts that make them unique.

You may also be interested in: Parts of a Fly Body
  1. What are orthoptera?
  2. Characteristics of orthoptera
  3. What structures do Orthoptera have?
  4. Are Orthoptera carnivores?
  5. How do Orthoptera reproduce?
  6. Examples of orthoptera
  7. Importance of orthoptera

What are orthoptera?

Orthoptera is an order of insects that encompasses grasshoppers, crickets, locusts, and their relatives. This group is distinguished by several unique morphological and behavioral characteristics that set them apart in the insect world.

Many orthopterans are known for their ability to produce sounds, a behavior known as stridulation. This is particularly common in crickets and certain grasshoppers. They produce these sounds by rubbing parts of their bodies, such as their wings or legs, and use them primarily for attracting mates or defending territories.

Orthoptera is an incredibly diverse group with over 20,000 described species found worldwide. They inhabit a wide range of environments, from tropical rainforests and deserts to grasslands. Some species are of significant agricultural importance due to their ability to form swarms and cause extensive damage to crops, such as locusts.

Did you know there are crickets that burrow underground? Learn about this and other fascinating cricket types in our related article.

Characteristics of orthoptera

Orthoptera exhibit several distinctive characteristics in both their anatomy and behavior. Below, we explore these unique traits in detail:

  • Segmented bodies: in addition to the basic segmentation into the head, thorax, and abdomen, orthopterans have bodies with clearly visible abdominal segments, often up to eleven. This segmentation is crucial during their growth and molts, allowing for flexibility and development.

  • Hearing organs: many orthopterans, such as crickets and some grasshoppers, possess hearing organs called tympana, located on the front legs or abdomen. These organs enable them to detect sounds, including those produced by other individuals of their species, which are essential for communication and predator avoidance.

  • Wing adaptations: in some species, wings are adapted not only for flight but also for sound production. For instance, crickets have modified wings that function as instruments to produce their characteristic chirps. These sounds play a vital role in communication, particularly in attracting mates and establishing territories.

  • Courtship behavior:many orthopterans are territorial and use acoustic signals to mark and defend their territories. Males often sing to attract females and warn other males of their presence. In some cricket species, the intensity and frequency of the song can influence mate selection by females.

  • Migration: locusts are renowned for their migratory behavior, often forming massive swarms under specific environmental conditions. They can switch from solitary to gregarious behavior, leading to large-scale migrations that devastate crops over vast areas.

  • Crypsis and camouflage: many orthopterans exhibit colors and patterns that enable them to blend into their surroundings, a form of camouflage that helps them evade predators. Some species can even change color in response to environmental changes, enhancing their ability to remain undetected.

  • Nocturnal and diurnal behavior: behavioral patterns in orthopterans vary, with some species being nocturnal, such as many crickets, which are most active at night to avoid predators and benefit from cooler conditions. Others, like many grasshoppers, are diurnal and active during the day.

  • Complex social behaviors: while many orthopterans are solitary, some exhibit complex social behaviors. For example, locusts in their gregarious phase display close social interactions and coordinated movements, forming cohesive swarms that travel together.

  • Resistance to desiccation: orthopterans living in arid environments have adaptations that enable them to conserve water and survive extreme desiccation. These adaptations are critical for maintaining their hydration and overall survival in harsh conditions.

  • Resistance to toxins: some orthopterans have evolved the ability to feed on plants containing chemical compounds that are toxic to other herbivores. This adaptation involves specialized digestive systems that can neutralize or tolerate these toxins, allowing them to exploit a wider range of food sources.

Did you know some insects can glide, but not truly fly? Find out if grasshoppers fall into this category in our related article.

What structures do Orthoptera have?

Orthoptera possesses a specific morphology that is well-adapted to their lifestyle and habitat. Here, we explore the main body parts of these insects and their functions.


The head of orthopterans features several key components:

  • Antennae: generally long and thin, these multifunctional sensory organs detect vibrations, smells, and environmental changes. This sensitivity is crucial for locating food and avoiding predators.

  • Eyes: orthoptera have large compound eyes that provide wide and detailed vision. They also possess simple eyes, known as ocelli, which detect changes in light, aiding in orientation and balance.

  • Mouthparts: adapted for chewing, the mouthparts include strong mandibles capable of crushing leaves and stems. This allows orthopterans to consume a variety of plant materials efficiently.


The thorax is divided into three segments: prothorax, mesothorax, and metathorax, each serving distinct purposes:

  • Legs: the front and middle legs are shorter and primarily used for walking and handling food. The hind legs are significantly longer and specialized for jumping, providing these insects with a means of rapid escape and mobility.

  • Wings: the first pair of wings, known as tegmina, is thicker and leathery, offering protection. The second pair of wings is thinner and membranous, used mainly for flight. This wing arrangement allows orthopterans to navigate their environments effectively.


The abdomen consists of up to eleven visible segments and houses critical internal systems:

  • Digestive and excretory organs: these systems are vital for processing food and eliminating waste.

  • Reproductive organs: females have an ovipositor at the end of their abdomen, used to deposit eggs in soil or plant tissue. Males may possess specialized structures for sperm transfer.

  • Cerci: located at the end of the abdomen, these are sensory appendages that aid in detecting environmental changes and potential threats.

You might be interested in this other article that explores the number of legs that grasshoppers have.

Are Orthoptera carnivores?

The diet of Orthoptera varies widely among different species. Although most orthopterans are herbivores, feeding primarily on plant material. However, certain orthopterans, such as crickets, are omnivores and have a more varied diet that can include dead insects, small invertebrates, and carrion, providing an additional protein source.

Their powerful mandibles are adapted for chewing tough plant material, enabling them to consume large amounts of food efficiently.

Orthopterans have digestive systems specially adapted to process plant materials. Their intestines contain symbiotic microorganisms that help break down cellulose and other difficult-to-digest plant components, enhancing nutrient absorption.

How do Orthoptera reproduce?

Orthopteran reproduction, while varying slightly between species, generally follows a similar pattern characterized by distinct courtship behaviors, mating practices, and developmental stages.


Orthopterans employ a variety of courtship behaviors to attract mates. Males are typically more active in these courtship rituals, utilizing a combination of acoustic, visual, and chemical signals. Many orthopterans, particularly crickets and certain grasshoppers, use song to attract females.

In addition to acoustic signals, some species use visual displays during courtship. These may include specific wing movements, body postures, or other conspicuous behaviors designed to attract attention. Pheromones are also employed by males to attract females. These chemical signals can help in mate recognition and stimulate mating behavior.


Once a female responds to a male's courtship, mating ensues. The male transfers a spermatophore, a packet containing sperm, to the female. This spermatophore is deposited in the female's reproductive tract, where the sperm fertilize the eggs.

After fertilization, the female lays her eggs in a location conducive to the development of the offspring. Many orthopterans lay their eggs in the ground. Females use a specialized organ called an ovipositor to burrow and place the eggs in a protected environment.

Other species lay their eggs in plant tissues, such as stems, leaves, or bark. This provides the eggs with a nutrient-rich environment and relative protection from predators.


After laying, the eggs undergo an incubation period that varies depending on the species and environmental conditions.

Nymph stage

Upon hatching, the young emerge as nymphs, resembling smaller versions of the adults but lacking fully developed wings. Nymphs go through several molts, shedding their exoskeletons to grow larger. With each molt, they become more similar to adults in appearance.


After several molts, nymphs transform into fully developed adults, equipped with wings and functional reproductive organs. Adults can then reproduce, continuing the life cycle.

Curious about the incredible transformation a cricket undergoes? Explore their life cycle in our related article.

Examples of orthoptera

Orthoptera thrives in diverse habitats worldwide. Below are some of the most common species, each adapted to its environment in unique ways:

  • Common Grasshoppers (Acrididae): known for their robust bodies with long hind legs adapted for jumping. Found in grasslands, fields, and agricultural areas.

  • Locusts (Locustidae): a type of grasshopper known for mass migrations and the ability to devastate crops. They inhabit regions of Africa, the Middle East, and Asia.

  • Common Cricket (Acheta domesticus): known for its characteristic song, produced by rubbing its front wings together. They are omnivorous, feeding on a variety of plant and animal matter.

  • Field Cricket (Gryllus campestris): found in Europe and Asia, lives in burrows in the ground. It also uses song to attract mates.

  • Common Green Grasshopper (Tettigonia viridissima): they are large, bright green species with long antennae. Feeds on leaves, flowers, and occasionally other insects.

  • Scrub Cricket (Panacanthus cuspidatus): they are characterized by spines covering its body, used to deter predators. Feeds on a variety of plants and occasionally smaller insects.

  • Mole Cricket (Gryllotalpa gryllotalpa): adapted for underground life with modified front legs in the shape of shovels. Found in Europe and introduced regions such as North and South America. Produces a song underground to attract females.

We have seen common examples of Orthoptera, but can you tell a grasshopper from a cricket? Learn the key differences in our related article.

Orthoptera - Examples & Key Body Parts - Examples of orthoptera

Importance of orthoptera

These insects are critical players in maintaining the delicate balance of ecosystems, acting as both herbivores and prey species.

On the one hand, Orthoptera species have a diverse diet of leaves, stems, flowers, and even seeds. While some can become agricultural pests, their overall plant consumption helps control excessive growth, ensuring a healthy balance within the ecosystem.

But Orthoptera aren't just plant eaters. They themselves become a vital food source for a wide range of predators, from birds and reptiles to amphibians, mammals, and even other insects. This predator-prey relationship maintains balanced populations within different animal groups, contributing to the overall health and biodiversity of the environment.

While not as well-known as bees and butterflies, some Orthoptera species, particularly crickets in the Gryllacrididae family, play a part in pollination as they flit between plants in search of food. They might not be the stars of the show, but they're still valuable background performers in the grand dance of plant reproduction.

Beyond grazing and pollination, Orthoptera contribute to the recycling of nutrients. Species like cave crickets, with their taste for decaying organic matter, play a crucial role in decomposition. They break down plant and animal remains, enriching the soil with essential nutrients and keeping the nutrient cycle humming along.

The presence and abundance of specific Orthoptera species can serve as a valuable indicator of environmental health. Changes in their populations can reflect shifts in habitat conditions, resource availability, and environmental pressures. By monitoring these "ecological barometers," we gain valuable insights into the well-being of the ecosystems they inhabit.

If you want to read similar articles to Orthoptera - Examples & Key Body Parts, we recommend you visit our Facts about the animal kingdom category.

  • Gangwere, S. K. (1961). A monograph on food selection in Orthoptera . Transactions of the American Entomological Society (1890-), 87(2/3), 67-230.
  • Micheneau, C., Fournel, J., Warren, BH, Hugel, S., Gauvin-Bialecki, A., Pailler, T., ... & Chase, MW (2010) . Orthoptera, a new order of pollinator . Annals of botany, 105(3), 355-364.
  • Rentz, D. C. (1978). Orthoptera . Biogeography and Ecology of Southern Africa, 733-746.
  • Song, H. (2018). Biodiversity of orthoptera . Insect Biodivers Sci Soc, 2, 245-279.
Write a comment
Add an image
Click to attach a photo related to your comment
What did you think of this article?
1 of 2
Orthoptera - Examples & Key Body Parts