Leaf insect

The Phylliidae family of leaf insects contains some of nature's greatest plant mimics. Native throughout south and south-east Asia to Australia, leaf insects use camouflage to take on the appearance of a leaf in order to hide from predators. They do this so accurately that their predators are rarely able to distinguish them from real leaves.

Leaf insect
In some species the edge of the leaf insect's body has even evolved the appearance of bite marks to further confound a predator's gaze, but it doesn't stop there. When the leaf insect walks, it rocks back and forth, to mimic a real leaf being blown by the wind.

The abdomen shows veins like leaves have and the legs are equipped with lobes. They are often bright green like a young leaf, but occasionally there are brown, yellow. There are even pinkish variants of this species.

Incredibly the leaf insect is capable of regenerating lost limbs. If it loses its limb it can replace it the next time it moults. However, once it has reached its adulthood, it will no longer be able to replace the lost limbs as at this point it no longer has the capacity to moult.

The difference between males and female can be sizeable once they become adult. The females are larger, thicker and wider than the males. The males are considerably smaller and slender. Adult females have broad wings what lay flat on their back, but they lack the under-wings that are necessary for flight. The males also have very long antennae.

Even when the leaf insects are still nymphs you can see the difference in body size and shape between males and females. The female has large leathery forewings (tegmina) that lie edge to edge on the abdomen and resemble, in their vein pattern, the midrib and veins in a leaf. Females are flightless and so the hindwings have no function. The male has small tegmina and ample, non-leaflike, functional hindwings. Newly hatched young are reddish in colour and become green after feeding on leaves.

These images are is licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 Unported license. Authors - Nandini Velho and Sandilya Theuerkauf

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