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Australian Walking Stick

Australian Walking Stick

Photo By Rosa Pineda / CC BY-SA 3.0

A Bug That Smells Like Peanut Butter?

 

The Extatosoma tiaratum, also known as the Australian Walking Stick is a bug that, as its name suggests, looks exactly like a stick! This bug is native to only the country of Australia, although being very prominent there. These bugs are covered with thorn-like structures that are used to defend themselves from predators, as well as to camouflage them from other predators. The reason it gets its name, of course, is from the fact that it looks exactly like a stick, as you can see from the picture above. The thorns on it not only act as a defense from predators in case something is able to tell what it really is, but it also helps to even further improve the fact that this bug looks exactly like a stick, not just to us humans, but to other predators of the bug too. As the Australian Walking Stick continues to grow, it will grow to be anywhere between 5 and 8 inches long. Female Walking Sticks even have wings, although they are too small to allow it to fly. As is the case with many other bug species as well, the male Walking Sticks are much smaller than the females. They are a little less than half as long as the females, and another difference is that it has three eyes! However, unlike the females and lots of other bugs as well, these three eyes are not compound eyes. You can learn more about compound eyes in our blog about House Flies HereThe male Walking Sticks have eyes just like us humans! They are not compound in any way, and do not offer any extra advantages to the big. The only difference is they have three eyes instead of two, so that is what makes them a bit different from us humans. Another difference between males and females is the fact that they aren't covered in spikes like the females are. The males do have spikes however, it's just they are only located on the bugs face. The only advantage the males have over the females is the fact that they are able to fly. They have large enough wings, and their bodies are small enough that they are able to fly away is they are ever disturbed by a predator, or while they are on the search for a female.

 

Although they are camouflaged very well, of course this does not always work and they need other defenses besides just some soft spikes. Whenever the Walking Stick is attacked by a predator they have a number of different mechanisms they use to defend themselves. When they first become threatened they contort their body in a way that resembles a scorpion! They stand on their front and middle legs, point their abdomen up, and move the rear part of their body back on top of their own body. They also maneuver their rear legs so that they are able to use the spikes on the back legs as pincers! Their legs along with their thorns in this pincer movement are so strong they are able to puncture human skin! Again, as with most other aspects of this bug, the males are different in the way they defend themselves as well. They do not have the thorns on the backs of their legs they can turn into pincers, nor do they have a body long enough to make it look like a scorpion. Their main defense is, as we opened this blog with, the smell of peanut butter! Well, not exactly just that specific smell. The Adult males produce a click sound, letting the predator know that they need to back off, or something bad is gonna happen. After they make this clicking sound if the predator is still around, they will release a defensive odor, that to us humans smells exactly like peanut butter. This odor most often smells terrible and actually causes discomfort to the predator. Another technique the males have for defense is their wings. The one advantage the males have over the females are the size of their wings, and sometimes they will abruptly flash them in order to scare the predator away. If all else fails, the male can try to just fly away!

Source: “Extatosoma Tiaratum.” Wikipedia, Wikimedia Foundation, 13 June 2018, en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Extatosoma_tiaratum

 

A Spider That Pretends To Be An Ant

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A Spider That Pretends To Be An Ant

Photo By Judt GallagherCC BY 2.0

Hiding in Plain Sight

Spiders are scary to humans, but even scarier to ants. They prey on ants constantly! However, even spiders have many fears too, as they are the favorite meal of many other creatures. Spiders have figured out a way to not only have an endless supply of ants to eat, but to even trick their prey into defending them and keeping them safe from predators. 

Photo By  Yogendra Joshi  /  CC BY 2.0

Because ants live in such large groups, and are very territorial, they are often left unbothered by many predators a spider would have to deal with. This, along with the fact that ants are a delicious meal for spiders, gives the spider a very good reason to want to live with them. In a phenomenon called myrmecomorphy, spiders are able to change the way they look and act, and trick the ants into thinking that they are one of them. Most of these spiders that trick the ants are covered in reflective hairs that simulate the shiny, three segmented body of an ant. They also have color patches around their eyes to make it look more like an ants eye. They even act like ants! They take their front to legs, and hold them up near their heads to make them look like antennae. They'll even learn to walk in a very erratic, zig-zag pattern just like ants do.

Spiders deserve a lot of credit for being able to pull this off. Not only are they able to change how they act and look, but they are also even able to perform some of the most stealthy eating and killing of any insect. Many times, they will wait until they find themselves alone with an unsuspecting ant, thinking that the spider is actually one of its own. When the spider sees that the time is right, and none of the other ants will notice, he pounces and kills his prey! Leaving no witnesses and no one suspicious at all. After killing his mea though, he still needs to eat it. The spider, still mimicking the ants, will perform something that is quite normal for the ant tribe. He will carry off the dead nest-mate away from their nest, which is a very common practice, thus bringing about no suspicion at all. Once the spider has taken away his meal, he is finally able to eat it. After this he will continue to fit into the group of ants, being protected and treated like one of their own, until he finds another opportunity to strike and get his next meal.

 

Source:

Andrew, Elise. “Spiders Disguise Themselves as Ants to Hide and Hunt Their Prey.” IFLScience, IFLScience, 20 Mar. 2018, www.iflscience.com/plants-and-animals/spiders-disguise-themselves-ants-hide-and-hunt-their-prey/

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