One of the weirdest wonders of the rainforest, the leaf insect is easy to miss. With a wide, veiny body and legs that look like ragged leaves, this insect probably has the best camouflage in the wild. Many predators pass right by this insect without taking a second glance.
Night Moves: Leaf insects are only active at night. During the day, they climb onto a branch and hang by their front legs, blending right in with the leaves. Predators can stand on the same branch as the insect and not even know it's there.
Ultra-Camo: The leaf insect's body (called the abdomen) has veins that look like those found in a leaf. They can be misshapen and colored brown or red around the edges to look like a withered leaf, or can even have transparent spots to look like a hungry insect has eaten a hole through it.
The Amazing Leaf Insect
Even though the leaf insect performs one of the best disappearing acts in nature, it has more tricks up its sleeve. If a predator is crafty enough to recognize a leaf insect and grab it by the leg, the insect sheds the leg and moves away to safety. If a predator grabs another part of the leaf insect's body, it can squirt a stinky, stinging chemical from a gland behind its head.
You Are What You Eat: Not surprisingly, the leaf insect's diet consists entirely of leaves. Since the creature looks exactly like what it's eating, it can even stay camouflaged while having dinner.
Out of Sight: The leaf insect blends in even before it's born. Its small eggs look like seeds, so egg-eating predators pay no attention to them. When the larva (called a nymph) hatches, it climbs the first tree it finds.
It Takes all Kinds
- Though every leaf insect closely resembles a leaf, members of the same species can look radically different from one another.
- Some leaf insects have brown around the edges to mimic a fungus that grows on leaves.
- A third member of the same species may be brown so it can imitate dead leaves.