Giant Thorny Walking Stick

Children's Zoo

Location

In the Zoo
Size
Male
Female
Length:
4 inches
4 inches
Weight
2.3 ounces
Maturity:         

Geographic Range

Western Malaysia

Scientific Information

Scientific Name:
Heteropteryx dilatata
Class:
Insecta
Order:
Phasmida
Family:
Bacillidae
Genus:
Heteropteryx

Lifestyle and Lifespan

Diet:
Herbivorous
Activity Time Frame:
Diurnal
Interactivity:
Social
Sexual Dimorphism:
Yes
Gestation:
12-16 months
Lifespan in the Wild:
Unknown
Lifespan in Captivity:
2 years

Conservation

Least Concerned
Threats:


Status in the Wild: Critically Endangered (functionally extinct in the wild)

Characteristics

Among most stick insect species, there is sexual dimorphism (males are different in appearance and size from females). Females are larger than males, they can grow to 6 inches in body length and are heavily built. From above females look like a stretched, pointy, oval leaf. Females are green and have rudimentary bright pink, or brownish wings. Males are smaller than the females, growing to 4 inches long. They are also much more slender and stick-like. Males are brown, have long striped antennae, thorny heads and legs, and functional plum-colored wings.

Species Specifics

The jungle nymph is also known as the giant thorny phasmid. It belongs in the family Phasmatidae, which is in the order Phasmatodea. The phasmid order, with more than 2,500 stick and leaf insect species, includes Palopus titan. At more than 1-foot (30.3 cm) long, Palopus titan is the largest known insect living today. Mantids, grasshoppers and cockroaches are closely related to the phasmids, and were previously classified in the same order.

Physical Characteristics

This species is large in size and has great camouflage. The large size and sharp exoskeleton allows them to defend themselves against predators. Females are able to blend into tree leaves and the males have the striking resemblance to twigs and bark.

Ecology

Habitat

Tropical Rainforest

Distribution

Mainly found in Peninsular Malaysia, but also reported in Singapore, Sumatra, Sarawak, and Thailand.

Diet

Guava leaves and other large-leafed tropical trees and plants. Will eat mainly blackberry leaves here, but can also eat rose, oak and English ivy leaves.

Ecological Web

This species is still considered common in the wild. However, the tropical rainforest that these insects need as habitat is rapidly declining due to several human imposed pressures such as farmers slash-and-burn clear-cutting to create land for grazing and crops. Humans need insects, they are vital as food for other species. Some even produce food for humans.

Activity and Behavior

Activity Pattern

Diurnal

Behavior

Social Behavior

The walking sticks rely on a grouping behavior that allows the insects to be camouflaged against tree bark.

Reproductive Behavior

The mobile males search out females to mate with, which then lay more than 100 eggs by ovipositing, or burying them into the soil. Hatching occurs 12-16 months later, usually in the spring. This, and some other phasmid species' eggs, can hatch more than a year after they're laid, driving populations to high levels every other year. Delayed hatching may actually protect jungle nymphs from over-predation. Predators form strong, lifelong prey search images in their first year of foraging. During those years when the phasmid populations are low, young predators are less likely to learn to recognize them.

Offspring

A single female lays 100 + eggs after mating.

Conservation

Status

Historical

Current Threats

Our Role

No items found.

How You Can Help

Fascinating Facts

These insects can snap the two long sections of a rear leg together to defend themselves with a powerful, barbed pinch!

Some phasmids can reproduce asexually! In a process called parthenogenesis, the females lay eggs that are clones of themselves!

A young phasmid that loses a leg can regenerate a new, useful, but smaller leg at its next molt!

This walking stick is known by many names- Jungle Nymphs and Malaysian stick insects are two others!

References

Animal Diversity Web

Woodland Park Zoo: https://www.zoo.org/page.aspx?pid=1923#.Wa7c1LKGOUk