Friday, February 25, 2011

Junior, go walk your leaf!!!

Hey guys!

Yeap, you heard it here, a leaf that walks!!! Although, to be honest I don't think I will be taking mine for any walks anytime soon...and if we're going to be technical it is really not a leaf but rather an insect that looks remarkably a lot like one! Walking leaf insects, like their close relatives the walking sticks come under the insect order of phasmotodea, more commonly known as "'phasmids". The term phasmid itself originates from the Greek word "phasma" meaning an apparition or phantom which is derived from the insect's uncanny resemblance to twigs, sticks, leaves and various plant matter which make them extremely difficult to spot in the wild. In captivity though, leaf insects can quite commonly be found in most butterfly houses and insectariums around the world, often showcased as exemplary specimens of insect camoflauge and mimicry.

Gray's Leaf Insect (Phyllium Bioculatum), can you spot it?
Another interesting trait of the leaf insect is their reproductive system. Like many members of the phasmotodea, leaf insects are capable of breeding via parthogenesis, a form of asexual reproduction whereby females lay eggs that develop without need for fertillization by a male. These unfertillized eggs often take a longer period to hatch (in comparison to fertillized eggs) and the resulting offspring will consist of female insects only making males of said species considerably rare.

Female leaf insect (P. Bioculatum).

Male leaf insect (P. Bioculatum).
As you can see the males look considerably different from the females. Indeed they are not only smaller in stature (measuring almost half her size) but live significantly shorter lives as well! Then again, I suppose in a society where females no longer have any need for males to reproduce, its only a matter of time before they are rendered completely obsolete. A scary thought there but one that has, nontheless been accomplished in the wild by several species of stick insects and even lizards! Males also posses a pair of hindwings which can be used for flight (a trait that is entirely absent in the females).

My very own walking leaf
The leaf insect that I had originally asked for was a nymph of the genus Phyllium Bioculatum which are native to the tropical rainforests of Malaysia, but, as you can see here the specimen I recieved is quite obviously an adult male of the species as opposed to a nymph and you can tell because it has already fully functionable wings (nymphs do not posses wings up till their fourth or fifth instars). Ideally it is the females which make perfect pets as they not only live longer but can also replenish one's pet supply with her parthenogenically produced offspring but I guess this IS my first attempt at raising such a species and I can consider his short life under my care a sort of "preview" into what it would be like raising a female (and her young) long term.

 Meanwhile I honestly wonder why not more people have come to raise leaf-insects and other phasmids as pets. I mean, they have, comparatively, as many the interesting and intriguing physical attributes as other more commonly kept invertabrates (say scorpions or tarantulas) and yet, none of the menacing venom and/or poison.
What's more, isn't this just a face you can't resist?

My little green monster and me, we go everywhere together~


Nature Rambles said...

Amazing photos!! Love the wings on the male. And interesting info.

ray brixton said...

i guessed that you are an insects lover! lol... anyway nice pics..

Totorogris said...

Do they bite.? I have one but his an indian walking stick