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Animal World: Our Co-inhabitants

Phasmida: The Fantastic Stick and Leaf Insect-People

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Have you ever been outdoors and seen a leaf or twig that suddenly got up and walked away? It comprises the world’s stick and leaf insect-people. My cousins, the stick insect-people, tend to have thin and stiff bodies designed to look like plant stems. Leaf insect-folk like me are generally flat and horizontal, with coloring that blends perfectly with whatever flora we call home. And when we walk, we have a talent for swaying slightly as if a breeze is blowing on us. You could say we are natural performance artists!

Our family name is Phyllidae, and we only have about 100 species spread across South Asia and the tropics – from Madagascar in the west to Indonesia in the east. We like to eat the fruit of mango, guava, and rambutan trees. The males are more elongated than us females, and we are heavier than them. After all, we have to lay approximately 500 eggs in our brief lifetime.

These phasmid relatives of mine demonstrate much more variety than leaf insect-people and boast about 3,000 species. And of those who are winged, only the males can fly. Whereas the trunk and limbs of stick insect-people are dullish brown, black, or green, their wings can be brightly colored, especially the pair in the rear. Customarily hidden, these vivid and eye-catching designs are revealed momentarily to either entice a partner or confuse an enemy. Some of them can change their body color, like a chameleon, to match their surroundings.

Many people from the Phasmida order are parthenogenic, not only leaf insect-folk. The moms have various methods of protecting their offspring, and one of the most remarkable involves a mutually beneficial relationship with ant-people.

Stick insect-people normally walk on six legs, but they also frequently need to hang upside down. Scientists have discovered that my clever cousins have different kinds of pads at the front and back ends of each foot. Isn’t that fascinating?
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