In December 2022 my Blog entry focused on Mimicry in the insect world. I wanted to return to this subject to expand on some of the other styles of deception that are referred to as Mimesis. This is when animals take on the appearance of their surroundings to avoid predation. We have some wonderful examples of Mimesis in the richness of the Cairns Botanical Gardens and the Wet Tropics region.
Spiny Leaf Insect (Extatosoma tiaratum) Lichen colour morph
This first example of Mimesis is one of the most fascinating rainforest critters you could ever come across. Spiny Leaf Insects typically are a light brown colour with large flat appendages on their legs that help them blend into their leafy environment. This particular individual is displaying a rare, lichen colour morph adaptation. Therefore it has taken its deception to another level. Not only has it formed anatomical adaptations to form leaf-like shapes with its body, it has taken a further step and displayed colours to match a lichen covered tree.
These insects are a popular pet and can be purchased through many online pet stores. They make great pets because they are easy to care for. In researching for this blog, I found one insect breeder who claims that this colour morph can actually be encouraged, rather than relying on genetics. She claims to rear the insects in a lichen-filled terrarium to increase the chances of the instar developing this lichen colour morph after their first moult. Interesting!
Spiny Leaf Insect (Extatosoma tiaratum) lichen colour morph