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Phasmidas Found All Over the World

Order Phasmida consists of more than 3,000 valid species and over 4,700 taxonomic names. Their geographical habitats range from Africa, America, Asia, to Europe. Maybe you remember seeing them in your backyard or at the zoo. But what you are missing out about them is so much greater than what you already know!

Common North American Walkingsticks

If you spent your childhood in North America, I am sure you remember seeing these funky, stick looking insects swaying around amongst its lookalike trees and plants either roaming in the wild or chilling in a fish tank in your second grade classroom. Phasmida, also commonly known as walkingstick or stick bug in United States, is one of the most unique insects found in our backyards.

Phasmidas are usually found in more tropical areas like Southeast Asia and South America, but it has a sizable existence in North America as well. Most North American species are found in Southeast regions, due to its more phasmida-friendly climate.

An Image of the Common Walkingstick

An Image of the Common Walkingstick

Of those species present in North America, Diapheromera femorata, also known as the common walkingstick, is most commonly found phasmida specie across North America in deciduous forests. Unlike its tropical cousins, the common walkingstick grows to be only about 3 inches and feed on various plant foliage, especially from oak and hazelnut trees.  As its population grows above the stable limit, common walkingsticks can often be injurious to forest.

Phasmidas Found in Asia

Stick insects have the greatest diversity in Southeast Asia and South America because of the humidity. They are usually bigger and longer also. Several species are about or more than 19 inches long when measured with the legs stretched out.

The longest insect in the world is Phobaeticus chani, also called Chan’s megastick, is the longest insect in the world. The longest specimen is 22.32 inches long measured with the front legs fully extended which is now held in the Natural History Museum in London. Chan is the donor of the specimen. That’s why it is called the Chan’s megastick. Chan’s megastick was first described in 2008 and it was selected as one of the yearly “The Top 10 New Species” due to its most unusual or unique features.

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So where can we find this amazing creature? Chan’s megastick was first discovered in the Heart Of Borneo rain forest. Rain forests in Southeast Asia provide an amazing condition on humidity and temperature for stick insects. Fun fact: Heart Of Borneo is an agreement aims to protect the biological, ecological, and cultural richness of the rain forests which were signed by Indonesia, Malaysia, and Brunei.

As we can see in the picture below, its brown exoskeletons work perfectly as a camouflage, especially they live on high tree canopies. It literally looks like a stick in a forest.

Australian Phasmidas

Australia is a big country, and it is so big that it is considered a continent! We would naturally expect phasmida to prosper in this vast lands, but that is not the case. Unfortunately, due to it’s geographical features, Australia is 3not a very hospitable place for phasmida to live in. The Outback of Australia is so hot and dry that barely any insects can survive there. Thus, they usually live around the more humid and cooler areas, such as Queensland, New South Wales, and Western Australia. Moreover, phasmida is seen more often during December to February, when it is the warmest in Australia. Let’s look at this map that shows the habitats of Phasmida in Australia.

Now why do Phasmida avoid dry, hot areas? Phasmida cannot survive in low humidity. Phasmida will harden if they do not get enough humidity. This automatically makes phasmida live in more humid areas and stay away from dry regions. Moreover, Phasmida eggs will not hatch until they are provided with enough humidity and temperature! No wonder there cannot be any cases of phasmida living in the Outback!

The Titan Stick Insect

The Titan Stick Insect

There are lots of different Phasmida in Australia. The most notable one is Titan Stick Insect, which is known to be the longest type of phasmida in Australia! These little buddies live around the coast, where there is enough plantation and water to survive.

the Stick Insect

The Stick Insect

These ones are called Stick Insects. They are little bit smaller than the Titan Stick insect (which you can assume from their names). They also live in the coasts and the woods where they can live without being hardened. Interestingly, the species in Australia are smaller and thinner than the Phasmids we can find in places like Malaysia. Why is this happening? This question can be answered through understanding the difference in the climates of the two regions. Australia is typically drier and less hotter in the coastal areas than in Malaysia. This makes the Phasmids shape themselves smaller so that they will be able to retain water. Also, they try to mimic their environment, and since Malaysia has a lot of forests, the phasmids in Malaysia tend to mimic the big tree leaves to protect themselves!

So, now that you know more about different species of phasmida, you can even scout out for different types of walkingsticks when you are traveling abroad!

Citations:

http://www.britannica.com/EBchecked/topic/418919/North-American-walkingstick

http://bugguide.net/node/view/74

http://www.arkive.org/chans-megastick/phobaeticus-chani/

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Phasmida: Fascinating Exoskeleton

Phasmida

Phasmida are often referred to as walking-sticks because of their looks. A great example of a phasmida is Slim from A Bug’s Life! They usually size from 0.5 inch to 12 inches in length and only weigh few grams. They have extremely long legs that look like thin branches! They are thinner than paper clips! Just like other insects, phasmida have exoskeletons that provide protection from the outside. However, the exoskeletons of the phasmida possess very unusual abilities that not many other insects have. The exoskeletons provide several survival advantages such as camouflage and moulting. Let’s explore these extraordinary abilities of phasmida’s exoskeleton!

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Slim from “A Bug’s Life”

Camouflage

Many other insects like butterflies and beetles use camouflage to hide from its predators, and phasmida, especially, are great camouflagers. Phasmidas have long slim limb and antennae that resemble thin twigs. Various different types of phasmidas utilize their stick-like features of its exoskeleton and plant-resembling color to blend in with its surrounding plant materials. Just as its well-known name of “walking sticks” implies, phasmidas can easily be mistaken as a thin wooden stick. Some phasmidas with prickly, green exoskeleton can hide among pointy green plants. And, those with thick bark-like exoskeletons could blend in with a tree. Phasmidas even sway their stick-like limbs back and forth to mimic the movement of a twig swaying with the wind. Phamidas are typically found in woodlands and tropical forests, filled with plant materials, where it can easily blend into its surroundings and hide.

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Moulting

Having exoskeletons, we must consider the phamids’ moulting process. Exoskeletons are hard shells that do not grow with the insect inside, and must be shed. For each species, phasmids moult a specific amount of times. (For example,Extatosoma tiaratum males moult 5 times and female moult 6 times.) Ever worry about losing a limb and not being able to grow it back? Well, you wouldn’t if you were a phasmid! (Until you can’t moult anymore, anyway.) Lost limbs can be regenerated when phasmid moult. After the first moult, the leg reappears as a stub or a tiny curly leg, and then a fully formed but smaller leg, and at last after the third moult, basically the same as before it lost its leg! Of course, with all these perks to moulting, it can only be expected that it is a hard process. They are literally tearing off their skin, after all.  A couple of days before they start to moult, they will climb to a high branch for protection and settle down to wait and won’t move and will not eat or drink until they emerge as their new self! After moulting, the phasmid must rest for a day or so to allow their new exoskeleton to harden. Its shell is still quite fragile, so in order to keep predators off on its trail, it will consume its shed shell both to erase all evidence of its presence and to gain all the valuable proteins. Pretty hardcore!

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Conclusion

As we have seen above, phasmida are incredibly amazing! Despite their small sizes, they have great survivability since unlike other insects their exoskeletons provide them with extraordinary defense mechanisms that guarantee their safety most of the times. Recently, phasmida became a very popular pet for people due to their calm and peaceful nature, making phasmida’s defense mechanism useless. Regardless, phasmida’s defense mechanism is still beyond amazing. I wish humans developed defense mechanisms similar to those of phasmida! Since people do not have super-abilities, we developed camouflage clothes to protect ourselves during combats and made artificial legs for the ones in need. Phasmida do all that naturally! Would you not agree that phasmids are probably the coolest insects out there?pic1

Sources

Blog by:

  1. Christina Hwang
  2. Emilee Chen
  3. Reno Seo