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Ground-Dwelling Stick Insect Discovered in Philippines

Sep 04, 2012 09:00 AM EDT

A new species of wingless stick insects that do not have any resemblance with other stick insects has been discovered in Philippines.

Researchers found the enigmatic new insect species on Mount Halcon, on the Philippine island of Mindoro. They named the species Conlephasma enigma, considering that it is not known to which family tree the new species belong to.

Stick insects belong to the family of Phasmatodea, while leaf insects belong to the family of Phylliidae. However, the experts could not find any relationship between the new species and other stick and leaf insects. Hence they gave the new insect a genus of its own. Experts found that the insect was covered with spectacular colors having a green-blue head and an orange body, reported BBC.

The insect species is reportedly flightless, looks stout and is a ground-dwelling species rather than a tree-dwelling insect. It was seen spraying out a defensive secretion from the prothoracic exocrine glands, when it was disturbed.

"In fact we have discovered that the new stick insect has the ability to release a potent defensive spray 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," BBC quoted Marco Gottardo, who is studying for a PhD at the University of Siena, Italy, as saying.

While tree-dwelling insects were said to have long bodies and legs which allows them to camouflage in between leaves to protect them from predator attack, the new species is stout and brightly colored.

According to the researchers, the new insect species might possibly have these features in order to adapt to the vegetation in lower grounds as they are ground-dwelling species.

Although most features of the new insect species did not match with other insects, the BBC report pointed out that the experts noticed the mouthparts of Conlephasma enigma to be similar to the mouthparts of another group of insects that live in tropical America.

Experts are baffled as to how two different species with similar mouthparts could live in different parts of the world.

They insisted on more detailed molecular analysis to find the new specimen's identity and to understand the evolution of stick and leaf insects.

The findings of the study are published in the journal Comptes Rendus Biologies.

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