Saturday, July 16, 2011

Creature Feature: Leaf Insects.

Natural camouflage is amazing. I cannot count the amount of times I have thought that a leaf looked like a sparrow or vice-versa. In nature, many creatures look like plants and vice-versa.

The leaf insects (family Phyllidae) of Australia and Southeast Asia are by far the most sophisticated leaf mimics in the known world. They eat leaves (such as lettuce, ivy, and bramble) and have evolved some very convincing camouflage to avoid predators. These insects know how not to be seen. Even the order name, Phasmatodea, derives from there suddenly being a bug in the branches where there was not one before.


Leaf insects put all other natural camouflage to shame by looking almost exactly like leaves. Their abdomens are flat like leaves, their legs have leafy flaps, and they are veined like the leaves they imitate. They even have 'bite marks' that make them look like they have seen some wear.

Leaf insects go beyond looking like leaves. They also move like leaves, swaying in the breeze along with their branches. Whether this serves a purpose beyond making the insect look more like part of the plant or not has yet to be determined. Mantises, who also have awesome camouflage, sway like this is well, and chameleons have a similar trick.

These strange, exotic insects make excellent pets. They eat nothing but veggies that can be found at the grocery store. Several species are capable of reproducing without a male. You can grow your very own insect-ninjas with ease!

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