September 4, 2012
Multi-Colored Stick Bug Discovered In Philippines
Lee Rannals for redOrbit.com — Your Universe Online
Scientists have discovered a new stick insect living in the Philippines that spends its days on the ground, rather than in trees. The new wingless species is colored with blues, greens, tans, and some orange around the joints along its back.
This six-legged creature, Conlephasma enigma, was discovered by Marco Gottardo, a scientist from University of Siena, Italy and Phillipp Heller from Switzerland. It was found on the third highest mountain in the archipelago in the Philippines.
The scientists said that the stick bug is so unique that they have given it its own genus, and are not sure what its relationship to other stick and leaf insects are.
C. enigma is different than other stick insects because most of them are tree-dwelling that live high in the canopy and resemble "sticks," blending in to their tree environment. The new insect is wingless, with a stout body and short legs, which helps its blend more with low-growing vegetation.
"Another unique characteristic is the spectacular color pattern. [A male] has dark bluish-green head and legs, and a bright orange body with distinctive bluish-black triangle-shaped spots on its back," Gottardo, who is studying for a PhD at the University of Siena, told BBC news.
The scientists believe the insects use these colors to warn off predators, rather than blend in with the environment. The stick insect is able to shoot off a foul-smelling odor from glands located behind its head.
"The defensive substance is sprayed when the insect feels threatened, and has a strong distasteful smell, which likely functions to repel potential predators in a similar way to skunks," Gottardo told the British news network.
They did determine that all of the stick insect's features aren't totally outrageous. C. enigma's mouth parts are similar to those held by another group of insects. However, this group of similar insects live in tropical parts of Central and South America.
The group of scientists hope that a detailed genetic analysis will shed more light into where this stick figure derived from.
"We also hope that the discovery of this particular new insect species may draw attention into the problem of rainforest conservation in the Philippines, which are home to unique and still poorly known wildlife," Mr Gottardo told BBC.