Photo By Smithsonian Institution - Insect Zoo / CC BY 2.0

Giant Legs, or Something More?

The Kangaroo Beetle, A.K.A. the Frog-Legged Leaf Beetle, is a species of beetle found in Thailand and Malaysia. These beautiful bugs have varying sizes depending on the gender of the bug, with females growing up to 0.98 inches, and males growing up to 1.97 inches. The main difference between the males and females, besides their actual size, is their rear legs. While the females have normal sized legs and look like any regular ole' beetle, the male Kangaroo Beetle has extremely large hind legs! Not only are they much thicker than the females legs, they are also very long and much stronger than the females, as well as most other bugs rear legs as well. The interesting qualities of these bugs doesn't just stop at their legs. The males and females both have a beautiful color to them. Their base color is green, and on top of this green are red and gold reflective patterns. These aren't just regular colors either! They are an extremely reflective metallic color, common to only a few bugs, including these beetles. The cocoons of this species can be found in many different places, but the absolute most common place to find them is on climbing vines, in the jungle. When these bugs are ready to form their cocoon, they will search out these climbing vines, climb very high, and then spin their cocoon around themselves.

One interesting thing about these beetles is how they communicate. They have multiple ways to talk to each other. In order to attract other beetles for socialization, the beetles will emit a pheromone to attract other beetles to its location. Unfortunately though, these beetles are getting close to extinction. Thankfully though, they are being brought back from the brink by different people. One team leading the charge in this effort is a team at the Berlin zoo. They have discovered how to help these bugs reproduce is large numbers in captivity. However, these bugs lay their eggs in a specific area that is only found in their native land. So, to get around this, the staff at the Berlin Zoo have discovered that sweet potatoes, of all things, resemble this hatching location perfectly, and therefore it makes a perfect place for the Kangaroo Beetle to lay its eggs.

Now, these giant legs that give this bug its own identity aren't just for looks. They are actually weapons, and helpful tools for eating! See, while the Kangaroo beetle is eating, it uses those massive hind legs to hold onto the tiny stems of leaves as it eats them. As for the use of the legs as a weapon, it is not a certainty, but based on scientific research, their legs are most likely used as weapons in battle with other males over females. The reason for this being because the males and females eat the same food, drink the same water, face the same predators, and live the same life. The only difference is the males have to fight over who gets which female. This is why scientists think that they have these extra large legs, to aide them in battle with other males for the female. This behavior of fighting with large rear legs has actually been observed in other species! For copyright reasons we are unable to show a picture of how two bugs would fight with their rear legs, but if you are interested in seeing how this is possible and what it looks like, you can check out This Article from the Scientific American. The photo of how they fight is about half way down the page.