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Colorful display of newly described stick insects confounds scientists


by Malavika Vyawahare on 16 April 2019

          • Most stick insect species blend into their surroundings to avoid predators.
          • But the males of two newly described species from madagascar, Achrioptera manga and Achrioptera maroloko, are brightly colored.
          • Some scientists believe this allows them to attract females, even at the risk of being spotted by predators.
          • Their distinctive hues make them potential flagship species for the biodiversity-rich regions where they were discovered: the forests of Montagne des Français and Orangea.

            If in the midst of a forest you chance upon a crawling twig, you may be in the presence of a stick insect. This group of insects, which evolved specifically to blend into their surroundings, this month yielded two new additions from Madagascar with a key difference: the new species exhibit a striking array of colors that make them stand out.“Nearly all of the 3000+ known species of stick insects try to be inconspicuous and just look like twigs,” Sven Bradler of the University of Göttingen, Germany, who co-authored a recent paper on the discovery, said in a statement. “There are a very few, very large exceptions — and we have just discovered a couple more of them.”

              For Frank Glaw, an authority on Madagascar’s reptilian population at the Bavarian State Collection of Zoology and lead author of the paper, the discovery was a long time in the making. Fifteen years ago, Glaw and a team of surveyors chanced upon two brightly colored giant stick insects during a herpetological survey in the forests of Montagne des Français and Orangea in north Madagascar.

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