Forum for Science, Industry and Business

Sponsored by:     3M 
Search our Site:


New giant stick insects with brightly coloured males discovered


Scientists of the Bavarian State Collection of Zoology (SNSB-ZSM) and the University of Göttingen have discovered two new species of giant stick insects, which measure more than 20 centimeters body length and are among the largest insects in Madagascar. Unlike most other stick insects the adult males of these phasmids are not camouflaged at all, but show a splendid colouration. Why the males can afford this extravagance remains an exciting puzzle for evolutionary research. The work was published today in the journal Frontiers in Ecology and Evolution.

Achrioptera manga is a real gem among the stick insects - it is huge and has brightly coloured males. The most important survival rule for stick insects is to make themselves invisible to predators, but the colourful Achrioptera males have simply ignored this and survived anyway.

Male of Achrioptera manga, the blue wonder of Madagascar.

Photo: Frank Glaw (SNSB-ZSM)

The male of Achrioptera maroloko shows a warning colouration, mostly consisting of yellow and black.

Photo: Frank Glaw (SNSB-ZSM)

What purpose this extravagance holds, and why the conspicuous males are not quickly eaten by birds and other animals, remains a mystery for the time being.

"It is possible that they ingest toxic substances from the plants they eat and that they accumulate them in their bodies. If this is true their bright colours might serve as a signal to potential predators that they are not edible", says Frank Glaw of the Bavarian State Collection of Zoology in Munich. "For females, camouflage could still be more beneficial than deterrence.

"If there are especially colourful males in the animal kingdom, it is often because the females prefer those males for mating, but whether this explanation applies to these nocturnal animals, we do not know," adds his colleague, grasshopper expert Oliver Hawlitschek from ZSM.

It is remarkable that the males develop their splendid colours only after they have matured. Until their last larval moult they look like a brown twig and are almost invisible during the day. The amaz-ing colour change to a splendid Insect takes place within a few days.

The females, however, remain well camouflaged for the rest of their life as do most stick insects. "With this strategy, the insect order of phasmids has survived for millions of years, producing more than 3000 species and populating all the warmer regions of the world." explains Sven Bradler, stick insect researcher at the University of Göttingen.

"Our data suggest that there are many new and morphologically similar species that can only be reliably identified with the help of genetics." adds his colleague Julia Goldberg.

So far, A. manga has been assigned to the externally very similar species Achrioptera fallax, which was described almost 160 years ago. But only a few years ago researchers of the Bavarian State Collection of Zoology discovered green stick insects, which correspond exactly to the first description of A. fallax.

Together with colleagues from the University of Göttingen they compared the green and blue morphs and found significant genetic differences that demonstrate their specific distinctness. The discovery of the second new giant stick insect (Achrioptera maroloko) happened in a similar way. It can reach up to 24 cm body length and was previously assigned to A. spinosissi-ma. However, both species also show remarkable differences in male colouration (yellow versus blue) and genetics.

Wissenschaftliche Ansprechpartner:

Dr. Frank Glaw
SNSB – Zoologische Staatssammlung München
Münchhausenstraße 21, 81247 München
Phone: 0026-134 469 1632


Glaw, F., O. Hawlitschek, A. Dunz, J. Goldberg & S. Bradler (2019): When giant stick insects play with colors: Molecular phylogeny of the Achriopterini and description of two new splendid species (Phasmatodea: Achrioptera) from Madagascar. – Frontiers in Ecology and Evolution
doi: 10.3389/fevo.2019.00105

Weitere Informationen: Staatliche Naturwissenschaftliche Sammlungen Bayerns Zoologische Staatssammlung München

Dr. Eva-Maria Natzer | idw - Informationsdienst Wissenschaft

More articles from Life Sciences:

nachricht New eDNA technology used to quickly assess coral reefs
18.04.2019 | University of Hawaii at Manoa

nachricht New automated biological-sample analysis systems to accelerate disease detection
18.04.2019 | Polytechnique Montréal

All articles from Life Sciences >>>

The most recent press releases about innovation >>>

Die letzten 5 Focus-News des innovations-reports im Überblick:

Im Focus: Explosion on Jupiter-sized star 10 times more powerful than ever seen on our sun

A stellar flare 10 times more powerful than anything seen on our sun has burst from an ultracool star almost the same size as Jupiter

  • Coolest and smallest star to produce a superflare found
  • Star is a tenth of the radius of our Sun
  • Researchers led by University of Warwick could only see...

Im Focus: Quantum simulation more stable than expected

A localization phenomenon boosts the accuracy of solving quantum many-body problems with quantum computers which are otherwise challenging for conventional computers. This brings such digital quantum simulation within reach on quantum devices available today.

Quantum computers promise to solve certain computational problems exponentially faster than any classical machine. “A particularly promising application is the...

Im Focus: Largest, fastest array of microscopic 'traffic cops' for optical communications

The technology could revolutionize how information travels through data centers and artificial intelligence networks

Engineers at the University of California, Berkeley have built a new photonic switch that can control the direction of light passing through optical fibers...

Im Focus: A long-distance relationship in femtoseconds

Physicists observe how electron-hole pairs drift apart at ultrafast speed, but still remain strongly bound.

Modern electronics relies on ultrafast charge motion on ever shorter length scales. Physicists from Regensburg and Gothenburg have now succeeded in resolving a...

Im Focus: Researchers 3D print metamaterials with novel optical properties

Engineers create novel optical devices, including a moth eye-inspired omnidirectional microwave antenna

A team of engineers at Tufts University has developed a series of 3D printed metamaterials with unique microwave or optical properties that go beyond what is...

All Focus news of the innovation-report >>>



Industry & Economy
Event News

Revered mathematicians and computer scientists converge with 200 young researchers in Heidelberg!

17.04.2019 | Event News

First dust conference in the Central Asian part of the earth’s dust belt

15.04.2019 | Event News

Fraunhofer FHR at the IEEE Radar Conference 2019 in Boston, USA

09.04.2019 | Event News

Latest News

New automated biological-sample analysis systems to accelerate disease detection

18.04.2019 | Life Sciences

Explosion on Jupiter-sized star 10 times more powerful than ever seen on our sun

18.04.2019 | Physics and Astronomy

New eDNA technology used to quickly assess coral reefs

18.04.2019 | Life Sciences

Science & Research
Overview of more VideoLinks >>>