Stick in­sect on steroids

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An in­sect in dis­guise and an­te­lope be­hav­ing badly – send your ques­tions to ed­i­tor@go­mag.co.za

QTONY JAMES from Joburg asks: Re­cently, dur­ing a visit to Mab­ula Game Lodge near Bela-Bela, my son saw what we be­lieved to be a stick in­sect in the road. But it was enor­mous! Do stick in­sects get this big?

AEn­to­mol­ogy ex­pert DUN­CAN MACFADYEN says: They do! This is a gi­ant stick in­sect – fe­males grow to 250 mm and males are gen­er­ally half that size. This species is one of the more con­vinc­ing stick mim­ics within the Phas­ma­todea fam­ily. The body is uni­formly dark grey­ish-brown, with rough, bark-like tex­ture and a pro­nounced dou­ble spike on top of the head. The males have fully de­vel­oped hind wings – the smoky brown mem­brane is marked with darker veins and clear spots. When dis­turbed, it will sway rhyth­mi­cally back­wards and forwards. Males may also flash their wings in a threat dis­play and are ca­pa­ble of weak, sus­tained flight. They’re at­tracted to lights at night and oc­cur across the warmer ar­eas of South Africa. They’re more com­mon than you might think, pre­cisely be­cause they’re so eas­ily over­looked. in­jury must have been re­cent and it was only a mat­ter of time be­fore she suc­cumbed, not be­ing able to eat or drink. How do you think she sus­tained this in­jury? Or could it pos­si­bly be a dis­abil­ity she’s lived with since birth?

AWildlife LD VAN ESSEN says: The jaw is not dis­lo­cated – the un­usual shape is prob­a­bly the re­sult of a birth de­fect or an in­jury she sus­tained soon af­ter birth. I’ve seen pho­tos of this cow be­fore – go­ing back to 2009. She has been pho­tographed sev­eral times over the years in the Pre­to­riuskop and Stol­snek area. Neil pho­tographed her at Shing­wedzi – about 300 km away! It’s not im­pos­si­ble there are two gi­raffe cows with the same ab­nor­mal­ity in the Kruger, but it’s highly un­likely. There’s a video on YouTube in which you can see how she eats – search for “Gi­raffe with de­formed jaw”.

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