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8 years later

Atasa Moceituba
Wednesday, September 27, 2017

FIJI'S endemic cicada known as the nanai has emerged again this year after eight years as a nymph in the ground. Cicadas are generally known as maka while the special Fijian cicada (Raiateana knowlesi) is called the nanai.

Legend and some people believe that the emergence of the nanai traditionally signals a "yabaki ni sautu" (a year of plenty).

NatureFiji-MareqetiViti director Nunia Thomas-Moko said Fiji had 19 endemic cicada sub species. Of the 19 recorded she said the nanai was known to have an eight years fixed life cycle.

"The Fijian cicada had only been recorded from Matokana, Navosa and Garrick Forest Reserve in Namosi. However, since we began the awareness campaign two weeks ago, there have been numerous reports from other villages within the provinces of Navosa, Serua and Namosi," Ms Thomas-Moko said.

She said there were little known on the ecology, habitat and behaviour of the Fijian cicada and therefore more awareness needed to be made of these unique species.

"Raiateana knowlesi (nanai) is a periodic cicada that emerges from the ground every eight years. In general these insects are known to undergo three major life stages; egg, nymphal and adult.

"The nymphal stage is the longest stage (eight years) during which they feed on root sap and nutrients while developing underground.

"The transformation from nymph to adult involves losing their nymphal casing and the drying of their newly developed wings."

Ms Thomas-Moko said adults lived for a few weeks during this time they searched for a mate.

"Gravid females then punch holes into branches where they deposit their eggs before dying out. The eggs hatch and small nymphs drop into the ground. They burrow into the ground and continue their life cycle unseen."

She said pigs, mongoose, cats, rats; human consumption and human disturbances such as forest fires, infrastructure development and mining were some of the factors that could threaten this unique species.

"Raiateana knowlesi (nanai) is not listed under the International Union for Conservation of Nature RedList. The lack of data on the Fiji nanai (and most of Fiji's other endemic insects) has resulted in no determination being made of its conservation status.

"This lack of data highlights the need for a comprehensive study, or a search for the insect before it is too late and it disappears from Fiji forever."

Fact File

* The name nanai is only recorded from the Emalu clan (mataqali), symbolising wealth and prosperity.

* Fijian cicada is the only cicada in the southern hemisphere with a long life cycle.

* Nanai (R. knowlesi) can be distinguished from the other cicadas in Fiji by its blood, the rusty coloured tinge at the base of its wing, and the black markings on its body

* It has three main body sections: the head, thorax, abdomen, and six legs.

* It develops its wings in its last life stage, as it emerges out of the ground and removes its hard casing.

* It has a body length (without wings) of 33mm for male and 29.4 to 34.8mm for female,

* Its forewing length ranges from 43.8 to 45.5mm male while the female is unknown

* The head width ranges from 10.3-11.4mm male while the female is between 11.5-12.8 mm.

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