The Mystery of the Donut's Hole
At the time I did not even know that Ceuthophilus was the genus of my Ozark camel crickets, for identification is tricky and can only be done by an expert. T.H. Hubbell, I learned, was dead and so I decided if I were to learn anything about camel crickets I would have to do so from personal observation.
I began capturing Ozark camel crickets from my farm and made a nice home for them in a terrarium. Gradually I figured out how they like to live and what they need to eat in order to thrive. Through a complicated series of events, I became acquainted with a former student of Dr. Hubbell's, Ted Cohn, now retired from the biology department of San Diego University. Ted spends part of his year working on the camel cricket collection at the University of Michigan and agreed to identify my pets.
After I sent him some killed, preserved samples of my Ozark camel crickets, he telephoned me in great excitement. He explained that Dr. Hubbell had always been puzzled by these camel crickets. They were of the same species as those just a few miles away and yet the males had notched pronota, often, at least in the older individuals, ripped and torn.
Some male insects offer females that they are courting a food gift from their own body. Did the female camel crickets, perhaps, bite into the male's pronota before mating? No one had ever seen them mate. Could I watch and see? Would females from these populations refuse to mate with males with a smooth pronotum even though they seemed to be of the same species? Samples from my area were few. Could I collect for him so that he could map the precise boundaries of the area in which the notched pronotum males lived?
I, in turn, had questions to ask him. One of the great benefits of writing my book was interviewing and getting to know a number of talented and interesting entomologists and Ted was one of them. The book is done now, but the fun goes on. I continue to work with Ted, continue to raise camel crickets, and continue to add to my list of questions about them, for each new observation on their biology and behavior generates several new questions of its own. I have enlisted the help of a number of people in my part of the Ozarks to