The Australian ant mimic
While many stick insects have evolved to blend in among tropical vegetation, MacLeay’s spectre has developed a disguise that makes it hard to spot against desert plants. Males are slender, with small spines and wings, but females take the cactus camouflage to the next level with lobed limbs and big spines.
Should a predator see through the façade, MacLeay’s spectre is ready with a back up. Curling its tail over its back, lifting its front legs and clicking, the stick insect takes on the appearance of an angry scorpion. It can also release a defensive scent that is said to remind people of toffee.
Female spectres swing their tails to flick eggs away from them onto the forest floor. The outermost layer is tasty to ants, so the insects carry the eggs into their colonies. When the young hatch they look like ants and aren’t identified as intruders as they scuttle out of the nest and back to the trees.
The spectre’s ability to curl up its wide, flat body is a crucial part of its defensive scorpion display. Giant prickly stick insect or Macleay’s spectre territory Australia and New Guinea
Diet Eucalyptus leaves
lifespan Males 9 months, females up to 18 months
adult weight Males 10g (0.4oz), females 25g (0.9oz)