Golden-eyed stick insect (Peruphasma schultei)
|Also known as:||Golden eyed stick insect|
|Size||Female length: 4.3 - 5.5 cm (2)|
Male length: 3.8 - 4.3 cm (2)
- The golden-eyed stick insect was first described as recently as 2005, and can be distinguished from other similar species by its small wings.
- When threatened, the golden-eyed stick insect erects its brightly coloured hind wings in warning and sprays a corrosive, strong-smelling substance at its attacker.
- Like many other stick insect species, the golden-eyed stick insect is nocturnal, and it hides within the leaf-bases of bromeliads during the day.
- In the wild, the golden-eyed stick insect is known to feed only on pepper trees of the Schinus genus.
The golden-eyed stick insect has not yet been classified on the IUCN Red List.
Officially described as a new species as recently as 2005 (3), the golden-eyed stick insect (Peruphasma schultei) was first discovered and collected by Rainer Schulte, a German wildlife rescue and management specialist (2), in 2004 (3).
This remarkable species is rather large and compact compared to others in its genus (2), and has prominent yellow to pale orange eyes which are conspicuous against the dull, velvet black colouration of its body and legs (2) (4). The golden-eyed stick insect’s body and relatively long, robust legs are covered in minute bristles, known as ‘setae’ (2) (3).
The smooth head of the golden-eyed stick insect is rather large, and slightly flattened on the top, while the antennae are long and thick. These antennae are black towards the base, but more reddish-brown further up, with a white spot at the tip (2). The golden-eyed stick insect’s mouthparts are usually bright red (2) (3), although specimens with yellowish mouthparts have been known to occur in captivity (3).
The golden-eyed stick insect can be distinguished from other Peruphasma species by its small forewings and hind wings (2) (3), which are mostly black and patterned with a network of yellow veins (2). The rudimentary forewings of the golden-eyed stick insect are leathery and almost disc-like (2), while the rear part of the hind wings is bright red (2) (3). However, in captivity, specimens with yellowish mouthparts are known to have light pink rear sections to the hindwings, and are known as ‘pink morphs’ (3). Interestingly, it has been noted that the egg yolk of pink morphs is yellow, while in the wild type the yolk is bright red (3).
Male and female golden-eyed stick insects are very similar in appearance, although the males tend to be smaller and more slender, with slightly larger eyes. Golden-eyed stick insect nymphs look like smaller versions of the adults, but do not have forewings or hind wings (2).
A Peruvian endemic (2), the golden-eyed stick insect is restricted to the Cordillera del Condor in the north of the country (2) (3). Within its range, which is thought to be just five hectares in size (3), the golden-eyed stick insect can be found at elevations of between 1,200 and 1,800 metres (2) (4).
The golden-eyed stick insect is found in small patches of dwarf tropical forest (2) (4), where it tends to be found on an as-yet unidentified species of pepper tree from the Schinus genus (2).
A nocturnal species, the golden-eyed stick insect is only active at dusk and at night (4), and spends its days hiding within the leaf-bases of large Tillandsia bromeliads which grow on vertical rock cliffs within the species’ habitat (2). In the wild, the golden-eyed stick insect is known to feed only on pepper trees of the Schinus genus (4), whereas in captivity this species appears to thrive on privet and lilac (3).
There is little information available on the reproductive biology of the golden-eyed stick insect. However, in addition to males and females of this species being able to reproduce sexually, females of this unusual insect have been reported to be parthenogenetic, meaning that they are capable of producing offspring from unfertilised eggs (3).
The matt, minutely wrinkled and granulated eggs of the golden-eyed stick insect are pale brown with irregular blackish mottling, and are only about four millimetres in length. In captivity, eggs have hatched after 2 to 5 months at temperatures of between 20 and 25 degrees Celsius in conditions of high humidity. Newly hatched nymphs are reported to be extremely fast moving, and reach maturity at about four to five months old (2).
When startled or threatened, the golden-eyed stick insect is known to take up a defensive position, erecting its brightly coloured hind wings as a warning, and spraying an irritating, corrosive and strong-smelling substance at the potential predator as a deterrent (2) (3) (4).
There are currently no known threats to the golden-eyed stick insect, and this species is one of the most widely available and commonly kept pet stick insects (3).
The golden-eyed stick insect’s original habitat in Peru’s Cordillera del Condor is protected by two Wildlife Refuge and Rescue plots which were funded by the Purchase of Nature initiative, a scheme run by IUCN’s National Committee of the Netherlands. While the plots of land were initially established by NGOs in Peru in 2004 and 2005 to help protect and save the endemic poison frog Dendrobates mysteriosus, a whole host of other new species of frog, reptile and insect were found within the reserves, including the golden-eyed stick insect (2).
The golden-eyed stick insect is managed intensively in specially designed screened, wooden cages by local conservation chiefs, with the income from the production of these insects being used to ensure a long-term future for the IUCN reserves in which it is found (2).
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- Antennae: a pair of sensory structures on the head of invertebrates.
- Endemic: a species or taxonomic group that is only found in one particular country or geographic area.
- Genus: a category used in taxonomy, which is below ‘family’ and above ‘species’. A genus tends to contain species that have characteristics in common. The genus forms the first part of a ‘binomial’ Latin species name; the second part is the specific name.
- Morph: one of two or more distinct types of a given species, often distinct colour forms, which occur in the same population at the same time (that is, are not geographical or seasonal variations).
- Nocturnal: active at night.
- Nymph: stage of insect development, similar in appearance to the adult but sexually immature and without wings. The adult form is reached via a series of moults, and the wings develop externally as the nymph grows.
- Parthenogenetic: relating to the development of offspring from unfertilised eggs. The individuals that results are usually genetically identical to their mother.
- Unfertilised: an unfertilised egg is one which has not been fertilised; that is, it has not fused with a male gamete (reproductive cell).
Species 2000 and ITIS Catalogue of Life (February, 2013)
- Conle, O.V. and Hennemann, F.H. (2005) Studies on neotropical Phasmatodea I: A Remarkable new species of Peruphasma Conle & Hennemann, 2002 from Northern Peru (Phasmatodea: Pseudophasmatidae: Pseudophasmatinae). Zootaxa, 1068: 59-68.
- van de Kamp, T. (2011) The “pink wing” morph of Peruphasma schultei Conle & Hennemann, 2005 (Phasmatodea: Pseudophasmatidae).Entomologische Zeitschrift, Stuttgart, 121(2): 55-58.
Espace pour la vie, Montréal - Peruphasma schultei (February, 2013)