Tuesday, February 19, 2013

Creature Feature: Spiny Leaf Insect.

There is a rather bizarre game that I like to play in the shower at my local health club. For whatever reason, there are a strange number of small flies in the women's locker room - usually one or two to a stall. (I haven't said anything; they've been there for as long as I can remember, and I'd presume the various renovations they've done would have fixed something.) My goal, as soon as I hit the shower, is to go fly-hunting. I show no mercy; rather, the night is not complete without swatting one fly on the marble. After all, I'm only selecting out the flies who aren't fast or clever enough to camouflage themselves, right?

That said, some insects, like this spiny leaf insect (Extatosoma tiaratum), have stunning camouflage. It is so good at camouflage that it is also called "Macleay's Spectre." This insect is native to Australia and possibly New Guinea. It is related to walking sticks despite looking a fair amount like a mantis, and is not a true leaf insect at all.

One word can sum up the spiny leaf insect: Impressive. It's large, for a bug, able to stretch across a grown man's fingers. Both sexes will occasionally curl their long abdomens like scorpion tails when threatened, creating a sort of mantid-scorpion look. Again, that camouflage is a real treat; it even has thorns. 

There are a number of interesting things about spiny leaf insect reproduction. For example, the males can fly, and only the females have that godly camouflage. The females, after getting knocked up, flick their eggs out of their bodies and onto the forest floor. These eggs hatch better in cooler temperatures, - under 25 degrees Celsius. Also, the girls are parthenogenic- that is, they can produce other female progeny without a male.

Know what's awesome? These unique insects make excellent pets. They can be found in schools and laboratories as test animals, and are very good for the first-time insect fancier. They are vegetarians, and can feed on any number of plants. Find a care sheet on them if you're interested; I'm sure they're around. It would be hard to find a better pet or display insect, if that's up your unique alley. Look closely at that tree branch- it might be a bug.

1 comment:

  1. Seems that most places that sell them are in Australia. Would be a long ride in the post. But I'm afraid the feeding might be a problem. They need fresh cut branches from specific trees and shrubs every few days. In this climate nothing has leaves in the winter. Maybe a florist?