One of ‘Our’ Giant Stick Insects in Top 10 New Species 2015

Phryganistria tamdaoensis: female, male, nymph and eggs.
21/05/2015
One of ‘Our’ Giant Stick Insects in Top 10 New Species 2015
post by
Reinout Verbeke

A giant stick insect discovered by two of our entomologists made it onto the list of Top Ten New Species for 2015, as compiled by the SUNY College of Environmental Science and Forestry (ESF). The list is used to raise awareness of biodiversity, by showing a small example of the amazing discoveries that are being made every year.

Entomologists Jérôme Constant and Joachim Bresseel described the 23 cm long stick insect species from Vietnam in November 2014. Phryganistria tamdaoensis (named after the beautiful Tam Dao National Park) is compelling evidence that, in spite of their size, more giant stick insects remain to be discovered and our knowledge of these masters of camouflage is far from complete. This giant stick insect is on display in our museum’s vivarium. The species was discovered and described together with another giant stick insect, Phryganistria heusii yentuensis, which, coming in at 32 cm long, is officially the second largest insect in the world.

Among other creatures that made the top ten is a puffer fish, Torquigener albomaculosus, which creates ‘crop circles’ on the seabed off the coast of Japan. The origin of the circles had remained a mystery for twenty years and the riddle has only recently been solved. The designs are roughly 2m in diameter, and are spawning nests created by males in order to attract a mate. The males wriggle on the sand to make complex designs that minimize the effect of the ocean currents and protect the eggs in the centre. Scientists think that this fish-architect’s structure might also provide his young with protection from predators.

According to Dr Quentin Wheeler, the president of the ESF, “The last vast unexplored frontier on Earth is the biosphere. We have only begun to explore the astonishing origin, history and diversity of life” and the species on the list only underline how true this is. 

An international committee of taxonomists selected the ten species among the approximately 18,000 new species named during the previous year and released the list to coincide with the May 23 birthday of Carolus Linnaeus, the father of modern taxonomy.

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