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Australian Walking Stick

Extatosoma tiaratum

Walkingstick Gallery

About the Australian Walking Stick

Class: Insecta
Order: Phasmatodea
Family: Pseudophasmatidae
Genus: Extatosoma
Species: tiaratum

Australian walking sticks are large, light brown insects with curled tails that have adapted to look like a branch of a tree. The walking stick’s Latin name, pseudophasmatidae, means “ghost,” a tribute to the insect’s camouflage abilities. Walking sticks are tree-dwellers and also have claws and suction pads on their feet to facilitate climbing.

Australian Walking Stick Facts

Appearance:
The Australian walking stick is large and light brown in color and strongly resembles a leaf or twig–hence its name.Their tail curls like that of a scorpion, except the walking stick doesn’t have a stinger. Claws and suction pads on their feet enable them to climb. Unlike females, males have wings and can fly. Females have spiny projections on their legs and abdomen for defense.
 
Size:
Male: 3-4 inches long
Female: 4-5 inches long
 
Diet:
Primarily eucalyptus

Reproduction:
The walking stick breeds year round. There are two ways for this insect to breed, though neither involves a courting process. Either the male follows the female’s scent and mounts her, or females can reproduce asexually. If the female does all the work by herself, the eggs take longer to develop, and all offspring will be female. Females can lay up to 1,000 eggs in their lifetime. Fertilized eggs take four to eight months to hatch, while eggs produced asexually hatch after nine. It takes four months for these baby insects to grow into their full sexual maturity and start reproducing for themselves.

Behavior:
Look for the arboreal and nocturnal walking stick moving among the trees at night. These insects try hard to blend in, as they’re known for curling their tails up to more closely resemble dead and dry leaves. Adult walking sticks can release an odor as a defensive adaptation, but they rely mostly on camouflage for defense. Walking sticks can also camouflage their movement by swaying back and forth like tree branches. Though masters of disguise, walking sticks are often eaten by bats, birds and reptiles because of their nutritional content.

Role in their habitats:
Walking sticks are herbivores, but they’re preyed upon by small rodents, reptiles and birds.

Habitat/Range:
These leafy insects live in tropical forests throughout northern Australia and also Papua New Guinea.

Life Expectancy:
10-12 months
 
Fun fact:
Their Latin name means “ghost” in reference to their excellent camouflage abilities.