27
Mar 05

THE FT TOP 25 ANIMALS – 12: Stick Insects

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It is an insect. That looks like a stick. And the punchline of the sorely under-used joke “what’s insectile and sticky?” That would be enough for its greatness status. But the true story of the stick insect is even more unbelievable. It is a story of evolution gone wrong, and mankind making things even more difficult. Even today mankinds inadvertent meddling is endangering the long term existence of stick insects. A story which proves that they may deserve to be even higher that number twelve.

Keeping insects as pets seems a bit rubbish. But stick insects with their apparent great camouflage give the pet owner the odd “hunt the insect” moment. It also gives us a chance to marvel at the wonders of nature, evolving this perfect disguise. Little do most stick insect owners realize that the natural habitat of the stick insect is the frozen tundra of Siberia and Alaska. A habitat that barely has any sticks at all.

So why did stick insects develop such camouflage? Would you believe coincidence? You see the stick insect has some of the worst eyesight of any insect, much like a ladybird. And like a ladybird, to attract the attention of the amorous other insects it had to stand out. And in an environment without sticks, looking like a stick makes you – well – stick out.

And what does mankind do with them? Stick them in a glass tank full of sticks. To find the poor insects constantly shagging twigs because it cannot find the female insects. We may not mean to be cruel, but we are systematically destroying the Siberian Stick Insect, and the strong numbers of the Alaskan is only due to a local educational drive. Evolution turned the insect into a long, gangly stick to make it visible, and mankind hid them in a heap of twigs. Its like keep zebras in a room full of Mondrian’s. To atone for this cruelty alone, the stick insect should be in this list.

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