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Try to Solve This Mystery:

Why was one dug-up nymph white? 
             

When we found nymphs crawling on
the surface, they were mostly brown,
like this:

 

But one nymph that was dug out of
its underground tunnel was almost
completely white:

 

So, what's the story?  Here are three
ideas:
   

1.  The white nymph may have been a 
different kind of cicada.

What kind?  We don't know!  Maybe was
a periodical cicada, rather than an annual 
cicada.

  

2.  The white nymph may have just
shed its skin.

We saw that, when the brown nymphs
shed, the new adults were very pale
(but not quite white).  Maybe the white
nymph had just shed its skin, and it
would soon get much darker.

We were unable to test this idea,
because the white nymph was captured
by someone else.  We couldn't watch to
see happened to its skin color during
the next few hours.

    

3.  The white nymphs may change into
brown nymphs as they grow and mature.
 

Many animals that live in caves or deep
soil are white.  Because cicada nymphs
live in the soil for several years, they may
be white, too, for most of their lives.

As they grow, the nymphs may get
darker and darker until they turn solid
brown.  The color change would
camouflage the nymphs, so they would
be harder to see once they dug to the
surface.

For this idea to work, the nymphs would
also have to change shape as they
grew.  Perhaps the red-eyed cicadas are
a stage that comes between the white
nymph and the brown nymph -- still a bit
pale in color, but closer to the size and
shape of the brown nymphs.  If that's
true, the growth stages would look like
this:

         

We were unable to test this idea,
because the white nymph was
captured by someone else, and we
couldn't try to raise it.  (Based on our
experience with the red-eyes, it
probably would have died anyway.)

For now, this remains a mystery!  

What do you think? 
E-mail us at Cicadas@SaltTheSandbox.org

   

Here are some Web sites that we used to research this question:

   Dan Century's Cicada Mania
   < http://www.dancentury.com/cicada/ >

   University of Connecticut Cicada Central
   < http://collections2.eeb.uconn.edu/collections/cicadacentral/NA/index.html >

  

NEXT:  What do newly hatched nymphs look like?
   

Go back to the main Cicada Mysteries page

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Copyright 2000 Eric D. Gyllenhaal                       Table of Contents                  Search this Site
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This page was created on August 26, 2000, and it was last updated on July 27, 2002.