Macleays Spectre Extatosoma tiaratum

Physical characteristics: Macleay's spectre is a large, winged leaf-mimic. The plump, heavy females have short wings and weigh 0.7 to 1.1 ounces (20 to 30 grams) and measure 3.9 to 6.3 inches (100 to 160 mm) in length. The smaller, lighter males have fully developed wings covering the length of the abdomen and range from 3.2 to 4.5 inches (81 to 115 millimeters). The legs and bodies of both males and females have leaflike expansions. Females are brown, sometimes green, and very spiny.

Geographic range: They are found in parts of New South Wales and southeast and north Queensland, Australia.

Habitat: This species is found in suitable bush or gardens.

The Macleay's spectre is popular as a display animal in insect zoos worldwide. In parts of Papua, New Guinea, one of its relatives is sometimes cooked and eaten by local people. (©Richard R. Hansen/Photo Researchers, Inc. Reproduced by permission.)

Diet: Their natural food plants include eucalyptus, but they will also accept oak and pyracantha in captivity.

Behavior and reproduction: In response to a perceived threat, the spiny hind legs are spread and strike out. Forelegs are waved, and sometimes the body sways from side to side. Females curl their abdomens up over the rest of their bodies, a posture suggesting that of a scorpion.

It is possible that females attract males by flashes of ultraviolet light. Reproduction is usually by mating, but females are capable of reproducing by parthenogenesis. Adults live for several months. Females lay several hundred eggs, which are flicked to the ground. The eggs take five to eight months to hatch. The larvae take anywhere from three to six months to reach adulthood.

Macleay's spectres and people: This species is popular as a display animal in insect zoos worldwide. In parts of Papua, New Guinea, one of its relatives is sometimes cooked and eaten by local people.

Conservation status: This species is not endangered or threatened.

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