Book review - Atlas de Distribution des Orthopteres de Suisse

Review by Chris Haes

Authors: Philippe Thorens and Adolf Nadig
Publishers: Centre Suisse de Cartographie de la Faune, Pro Natura
Year of Publication: 1997
Pages: n/k
Format: Softback
ISBN: 2-88414-010-7
Price: 30SFr (approx £11.75)
Available from: Insect Helvatica (Seg), CSXF Tereaux 14, CH-2000 Neuchatel, Switzerland.

For those interested in European Orthopteriods, this very modestly priced book provides an invaluable complement to the handful of other continental atlases of grasshoppers etc. so far published.

The Swiss atlas is in French and German, with mapm data in French only. The map section is however so clearly presented that the atlas may be used easily even if you are unable to read either language. However, if you can, the information contained is, for an orthopterist, of great importance, and clearly the result of very thorough research.

The main feature is the very clear set of maps. These cover the distributions of 108 mostly resident orthopteran species, plus the Praying mantis (Mantis regiliosa), which is quite widespread in the south and west of the country.

The maps are based upon the 5x5km2. They are marked in solid dots for post-1969 and open circles for pre-1970 records. All but the most urbanised or mountainous terrain have been marked. From a rough estimate I make this to be about 85% of the country.

The maps display three additional features of very great value: they show the main rivers and lakes; the time of appearance, and, most importantly for Switzerland, occurence against metric altitude. These last two items are neatly linked to a scale of abundance. The maps thus give a clear indication of population density as well as distribution and time of appearance for each species.

Most species of orthopterans which occur in Britain are widespread in Switzerland including the, in Britain, very localised Grey bush-cricket (Platycleis albopunctata), Woodland grasshopper (Omocestus rufipes) and Rufous grasshopper (Gomphocerippus rufus). The reverse however is clearly the case with the Mottled grasshopper (Myrmeleotettix maculatus). As elsewhere in southern or central Europe it is virtually restricted to a few isolated populations, most at higher altitude. In fact several other British species also occur at or above 2000m in Switzerland - notably the Wart-biter (Decticus verrucivorus), where it is a major predator of fellow orthopterans; the Stripe-winged grasshopper (Stenabotherus lineatus), the Common green grasshopper (Omocestus viridulus) and the Meadow grasshopper (Chorthippus parallelus).

Although their damp habitats are vulnerable to drainage in Switzerland, as elsewhere, it is gratifying to see that there are still many sites for the Large marsh grasshopper (Stethophyma grossum) and the seriously declining Mole cricket (Gryllotalpa gryllotalpa). The Field cricket (Gryllus campestris) is also encouragingly widespread.

The distributions of the five species of ground-hoppers (Tetrigidae) is interesting, and also includes all three British species. The most widespread are Slender ground-hoppers (Tetrix subulata) and T. bipunctata. Cepero's (T. ceperoi) is very localised (as in Britain) and the Common (T. undulata) restricted to the northern part of the country.

Several typically Mediterranean orthopteran are recorded from thermal pockets, the most spectacular being Sago pedo, in the Rhone valley and in a totally isolated area in the Rhein valley, near Chur, and Eupholidoptera chabrieri in the Lugano district in the extreme south.

One pleasant feature of orthopterans lacking from the British mainland fauna are grasshoppers with brightly coloured hindwings, conspicuous in flight. In Switzerland, eight such species are recorded, although yellow winged Oedalus decorus is only recorded in one post-1969 site, and the fascinating pink-winged Bryodema tuberculata, once known from fourteen sites in Engadine, has not been refound in the post-1969 period. It is very vulnerable to any disturbance of its fragile gravel-bed habitats, and is infact, now almost lost from western Europe.

On a more cheerful note, the Swiss mountain pastures still retain a rich assortment of alpine or sub-alpine orthopterans. Most noticable amongst them, for loud and distinctive stridulation, are the bush-crickets Tettigonia cantans, Pholidoptera aptera, and the remarkably bulky Polysarcus denticauda. Three upland grasshoppers are certain to attract attention: Psophus stridulus, the males readily taking to clicking flight on their deep red wings, and the very noisy Chorthippus scalaris and large and colourful Arcyptera fusca, which looks like a fattened-up Large marsh grasshopper.

This atlas covers a key area of western Europe very adequately and is thoroughly to be recommended. Not surprisingly, at its price, it lacks coloured illustrations, but a representative species from each of the seven main orthopteran families are superlatively drawn by A. Coray.

Originally published in the Bulletin of the Amateur Entomologists' Society.

Back to articles list.