Cicadoidea (cicadas, Fig. 2) are distinguished from other extant Auchenorrhyncha in having fossorial front legs (in nymphs) and three ocelli grouped in a triangle on the crown of the head; in addition they lack the ability to jump. They are conspicuous insects because of their large size (1.5—11 cm) and the loud courtship calls of the males. Most authorities recognize two families: Cicadidae and Tettigarctidae. Tettigarctidae [Cicadoprosbolidae in the paleontological literature, Fig. 2(6)], which differ from Cicadidae in having the pronotum extended to the scutellum and lacking distinct tympana, are a relict group with two extant species in southern Australia and Tasmania and several fossil taxa dating to the Lower Jurassic. Cicadidae [Fig. 2(7-9)], which do not appear in the fossil record until the Paleocene, comprise two main (possibly polyphyletic) groups, those with the tymbals (sound-producing organs) concealed and those with exposed tymbals. These two groups are sometimes given status as separate families, Cicadidae (sensu stricto) and Tibicinidae, respectively. Together these groups comprise approximately 1300 extant species. Phylogenetic analyses of the major lineages are in progress and it is likely that the classification of the superfamily will be substantially revised in the near future.

Although cicadas almost always lay eggs on aboveground parts of their host plant, the nymphs drop to the ground soon after hatching and use modified (fossorial) front legs to burrow into the soil, excavating a subterranean feeding chamber adjacent to a root. They feed on the xylem of the roots of perennial plants, coating themselves and lining their burrows with "anal liquid" that appears to be similar to that produced by cercopoid nymphs. Development in most species requires from 2 to 6 years (13 or 17 years in the periodical cicadas of temperate North America). Larger nymphs of some species inhabiting wet habitats construct towers of mud that facilitate aeration of the burrow. Mature nymphs emerge from the ground and climb onto a vertical surface prior to molting into the adult stage [Fig. 2(9)]. As far as is known, all cicadas feed on xylem sap; hence the frontoclypeus is strongly inflated owing to the presence of strong cibarial dilator muscles. Like the Cercopoidea, cicadas do not walk or run well; instead they rely on flight to move over distances greater than a few centimeters. In some cicada species, males are sedentary, often forming aggregations and calling loudly in choruses to attract females. In others, the male calls are less audible, and males fly frequently from place to place in search of females. Male and female cicadas have auditory organs (tympana) at the base of the abdomen. Unlike other Auchenorrhyncha, female cicadas (except Tettigarcta) do not produce acoustic signals. Tettigarctidae differ from other cicadas in producing only substrate-borne signals (in males and females).

Cicadoidea are the most ecologically uniform of the Auchenorrhyncha superfamilies. Nymphs of all species are subterranean root feeders, and adults feed on the aboveground parts of their host plants. Most cicada species tend to be associated with particular habitats, and many seem to be host plant specific. Sympatric species often call at different times of day or mature during different seasons, thus temporally partitioning their habitat. The cicada faunas of deserts and savannas are particularly rich in genera and species, but tropical rain forests also harbor a great diversity of species.

Cicadoidea occur worldwide but, like the other two cicadomorphan superfamilies, are largely a tropical group. A few genera (e.g., Cicada, Cicadetta), occur on several continents, but most are restricted to a single biogeographic realm. Most species appear to have fairly narrow geographic ranges. The high degree of endemism in many groups has proven useful in studies of biogeography, particularly in the geologically complex island areas of the oriental and Australian regions.

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