Chan's megastick (Phobaeticus chani)

KingdomAnimalia
PhylumArthropoda
ClassInsecta
OrderPhasmida
FamilyPhasmatidae
GenusPhobaeticus (1)
SizeMale length: c. 14 cm (2)
Female length: c. 58 cm (2)
Top facts

Chan’s megastick is not yet classified on the IUCN Red List.

The magnificent Chan’s megastick (Phobaeticus chani), first described in 2008, is potentially the world’s longest insect (3). It belongs to the stick insect family, Phasmatidae (1), and is 2.9 centimetres larger than the related Phobaeticus kirbyi, previously believed to hold the ‘longest insect’ title (4).

Male and female Chan’s megasticks vary significantly in their appearance. The female is considerably larger than the male, with a dark green body covered in whitish spots. It is also wingless, and has large spines on the middle and hind legs. The winged male is predominantly brown (3) and, like the female, has spines on its middle and hind legs, although some are less developed. Size difference between the two sexes is significant, with the male measuring only 13 to 14 centimetres (2).

As their name suggests, stick insects resemble sticks or other bits of plant, giving them excellent camouflage against their background as a form of defence. This mimicry sometimes begins before birth, with the eggs of some species resembling plant seeds (5). 

Chan’s megastick was discovered in the Penampang district of Sabah in Malaysian Borneo (6). Other records of this species are from Sipitang and the Mount Kinabalu National Park, also located within Sabah (2).

Chan’s megastick is believed to survive high in the rainforest canopy of Sabah (3) (6). 

Although almost no data is available regarding the biology and ecology of Chan’s megastick, it is assumed that the species has remained undiscovered for so long due to its presence in high tree canopies. The previous record holders for the world’s longest insect were known for over 100 years prior to the discovery of Chan’s megastick (8).

The distinctive egg of the female Chan’s megastick is encased in a capsule that has rounded wing-like protrusions. This unusual shape is believed to have evolved to aid in wind dispersal, allowing the egg case to travel after it is dropped from high up in the forest canopy. It is also speculated that this shape is unique among insects (3) (4).

In general, stick insects are inactive during the daytime, their bodies well camouflaged against the vegetation as they lie still, providing protection from predators. Some stick insect species also have additional defence mechanisms, such as spines or noxious chemical sprays (9). 

The rise in oil palm plantations in Borneo is driving deforestation, leaving forest species, such as Chan’s megastick, vulnerable to habitat loss (9).

There are no known conservation measures in place for Chan’s megastick at present. This species is well protected within the Mount Kinabalu National Park, Sabah (2). 

Find out more about Chan’s megastick:

More information on stick insects:

Authenticated (26/03/13) by Frank Hennemann. 
http://www.phasmatodea.com/

  1. Hennemann, F. and Conle, O. (2008) Revision of Oriental Phasmatodea: The tribe Pharnaciini Gunther, 1953, including the description of the world's longest insect, and a survey of the family Phasmatidae Gray, 1835 with keys to the subfamilies and tribes (Phasmatodea: "Anareolatae": Phasmatidae). Zootaxa, 1906: 1-316.
  2. Natural History Museum (2010) Stick-insect makes BBC top 10 new species of decade. NaturalHistory MuseumNews, 14 December. Available at:
    http://www.nhm.ac.uk/about-us/news/2010/december/stick-insect-makes-bbc-top-10-new-species-of-decade93170.html
  3. Wildlife Extra (2008) World’s longest insect discovered in Borneo. Wildlife Extra News, 21 October. Available at:
    http://www.wildlifeextra.com/go/news/longest-insect354.html#cr
  4. BBC Nature - Stick insects (January, 2013)
    http://www.bbc.co.uk/nature/life/Phasmatodea
  5. Arizona State University International Institute for Species Exploration - Top 10 2009 (January, 2013)
    http://species.asu.edu/2009_species02
  6. Alleyne, R. (2010) World’s longest insect among haul of new species discovered in remote rainforest. The Telegraph, 22 April. Available at:
    http://www.telegraph.co.uk/earth/earthnews/7614510/Worlds-longest-insect-among-haul-of-new-species-discovered-in-remote-rainforest.html
  7. Natural History Museum (2009) World’s longest insect is in top 10. NaturalHistory MuseumNews, 29 May. Available at:
    http://www.nhm.ac.uk/about-us/news/2009/may/worlds-longest-insect-is-in-top-1032090.html
  8. Mongabay (2008) What is the world’s longest insect? Mongabay, 17 October. Available at:
    http://news.mongabay.com/2008/1017-longest_insect.html