The Parktown Prawn, or Libanasidus vittatus is perhaps the ugliest creature on earth. It is a member of the King Cricket (Anastostomatidae) family and is endemic to South Africa. It is closely related to New Zealand's Weta and similar in looks but is much more mobile and can jump long distances. It is also related to North America's Jerusalem Cricket.

The Parktown Prawn was first described in 1899 by William Kirby. He picked up the holotype in Barberton in what now is Mpumalanga. With the rise of irrigated gardens during the 20th century, it moved into Johannesburg where it has become an integral part of the suburban culture. Libanasidus V.'s common name, Parktown Prawn, comes from the Johannesburg suburb Parktown, where they first began to appear en-masse. This move into the suburbs brought the Prawn infamy and fortune. Thanks to their habit of inhabiting cupboards, shoes and bathrooms they quickly became the scourge of residents of suburban Johannesburg.

Male Parktown prawns grow up to 57mm from the mandible to the end of the abdomen or 157mm from the tip of the antennae to the hind feet (6.2 inches according to Google) and females have been found which are 64millimetres from mandible to ovipositor. Both genders are a sort of orange brown colour and sport spiked legs, long antennae and the ability to squirt evil smelling brown gunk. Males also features tusk like mandibles up to 10mm long. Possibly the best feature of the prawn is their habit of jumping towards loud sounds, such as screaming women. Parktown prawns eat fallen fruit, snails, rotting leaves, dog food and small children.

Unfortunately, the rise of the Hadeda Ibis population in Johannesburg has made a serious dent in the Parktown prawn population so it is fairly hard to find one to put down somebody's shirt during that critical game of garden cricket.


Check out http://home.intekom.com/intekom/parktown_prawns/appearance.htm for some photos.

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