Phasmida: Fascinating Exoskeleton

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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!

Slim from “A Bug’s Life”


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.



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!



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


Blog by:

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

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