Leaf-mimicking insects at least 47 million years old
December 25, 2006

With the discovery of a 47 million year old fossil of a lead insect, new research suggests that cryptic leaf-mimicking camoflauge is a time-tested strategy used by insects to avoid predators.

Extant female (A) and male (B) of Phyllium celebicum, both displayed in life-size. The fossil male leaf insect has the same size as extant male P. celebicum. Image courtesy of PNAS
The find indicates that leaf mimicry had already evolved early in the Eocene period when insect predators would have included birds, early primates, bats, and other insects.

"This fossil leaf insect bears considerable resemblance to extant individuals in size and cryptic morphology, indicating minimal change in 47 million years," write the researchers led by Sonja Wedmann of the Rheinische Friedrich-Wilhelms-Universitat in Bonn, Germany. "This absence of evolutionary change is an outstanding example of morphological and, probably, behavioral stasis."

The research is published in the December 25th early edition of PNAS.

Sonja Wedmann, Sven Bradler, and Jes Rust. "The first fossil leaf insect: 47 million years of specialized cryptic morphology and behavior". Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (PNAS) Online Early Edition - December 25, 2006.

This article is based on a news release from PNAS.

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mongabay.com (December 25, 2006).

Leaf-mimicking insects at least 47 million years old.