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Author Topic: Chan's Megastick  (Read 2032 times)

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Offline KetTopic starter

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Chan's Megastick
« on: October 17, 2008, 02:51:26 AM »
Check this bug out!

Quote

Bug from Borneo is World's Longest

LONDON - Nearly the length of a human arm, a recently identified stick bug from the island of Borneo is the world's longest insect, British scientists said Thursday.

The specimen was found by a local villager and handed to Malaysian amateur naturalist Datuk Chan Chew Lun in 1989, according to Philip Bragg, who formally identified the insect in this month's issue of peer-reviewed journal Zootaxa. The insect was named Phobaeticus chani, or "Chan's megastick," in Chan's honor.

Paul Brock, a scientific associate of the Natural History Museum in London unconnected to the animal's discovery said there was no doubt it was the longest extant insect ever found.

Looking more like a solid shoot of bamboo than its smaller, frailer cousins, the dull-green insect measures about 22 inches (56.7 centimeters), if its delicate, twig-like legs are counted. There are 14 inches (35.7 centimeters) from the tip of its head to the bottom of its abdomen, beating the previous record body length, held by Phobaeticus kirbyi, also from Borneo, by about an inch (2.9 centimeters).

Stick bugs, also known as phasmids, have some of the animal kingdom's cleverest camouflage. Although some phasmids use noxious sprays or prickly spines to deter their predators, generally the bugs assume the shape of sticks and leaves to avoid drawing attention.

"Their main defense is basically hanging around, looking like a twig," Brock said. "It will even sway in the wind."

Awesomeness!  I tried to find more than just this one photo from the article, but I couldn't.


Offline The Overlord

Re: Chan's Megastick
« Reply #1 on: October 17, 2008, 06:33:41 AM »

Holy...that's amazing.

At least it's only found so far in Borneo...as long as I don't go camping and find the sucker on the inside wall of my tent in the morning.  :o

Offline KetTopic starter

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Re: Chan's Megastick
« Reply #2 on: October 17, 2008, 03:21:59 PM »
I'd love to go camping and find that on the wall of my tent in the morning!  Stick bugs are so neat!  Though, I'm pretty sure I'd know it if a 22 inch long bug was crawling around my tent...

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Re: Chan's Megastick
« Reply #3 on: October 17, 2008, 05:10:51 PM »
It's funny, but stick insects and the like, like this one don't bother me one bit. I love snakes and the like, but I hate with a passion spiders.....  :-X

Offline Spookie Monster

Re: Chan's Megastick
« Reply #4 on: October 17, 2008, 06:17:25 PM »
Nice catch, Ket! :)  I happen to like stick insects quite a bit, although I don't have any as pets (yet, anyway).  I only wish that Dr. Bragg hadn't waited almost twenty years to formally identify the little bugger!  It's possible that some Elliquiy members hadn't even been conceived when this "local villager" handed the specimen over...

Actually, I do wish, too, that the article had detailed two points:

1) This fellow might indeed be the longest extant insect, but he's not the most massive extant insect, which could be the Goliath beetle, the giant weta, or something undiscovered;

2) He might be the longest extant insect, but he's far from the longest insect known; the extinct arthropleurids could grow up to two freakin' meters long.

I did really enjoy this line from the article:

"Their main defense is basically hanging around, looking like a twig," Brock said.  "It will even sway in the wind."

It appears as though stick insects and I have something in common!

Once again, Ket: Nice catch! :)

Spel

Offline KetTopic starter

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Re: Chan's Megastick
« Reply #5 on: October 17, 2008, 06:36:31 PM »
I too wondered why there was a 20 year span from discovery to formal identification.  Perhaps there was difficulty in distinguishing it from Phobaeticus kirbyi, or maybe Chan, the amateur naturalist, didn't hand it over to Dr. Bragg until recently?

Ah, a better photo!


Offline Spookie Monster

Re: Chan's Megastick
« Reply #6 on: October 21, 2008, 05:55:14 PM »
I too wondered why there was a 20 year span from discovery to formal identification.  Perhaps there was difficulty in distinguishing it from Phobaeticus kirbyi, or maybe Chan, the amateur naturalist, didn't hand it over to Dr. Bragg until recently?

Well, I'm sure that there is a fairly reasonable explanation, and when done properly these things do take time.  I know that I for one prefer a perceived delay born of methodical research than a rush to judgment -- and, let's face it, many scientists are all too willing to rush to judgment to make their names, to best their rivals, to earn tenure, to keep the grant money flowing.*  You might be right on both counts, in fact: Mr. Chan might have held on to the specimen for a while and Dr. Bragg might have withheld judgment on whether it represented a separate species until he was genuinely convinced that it did...

Still, twenty years?  Twenty freakin' years?  Even if we allow a couple of years for Mr. Chan to hand over the specimen, a couple of years for Dr. Bragg to arrange an expedition, a couple of years to conduct the expedition itself, a couple of years to analyze the results, a couple of years to write some papers, and a couple of years for the conclusions to be recognized, that still leaves seven or eight years missing.  What, did they all accidentally enter a Christmas-light-untangling marathon or something?

Worse yet:

Although British scientists formally announced the new record holder last week, the dead, female stick insect was found in Borneo's rainforests by a local collector around 30 years ago.  It was not until a decade later in 1989 that Malaysian naturalist, Datuk Chan Chew Lun, whom the insect is named after, saw the villager's collection and noticed the insect, also full of eggs, as a new species.

The article that I'm quoting from, located here, reveals the awful truth: The specimen in question was actually discovered thirty years ago.

Jeezum, guys, do you really have better stuff to do than study new species?


It appears that the specimen is a female, as a note, which rather invalidates my use of "he" above, regardless of the fact that I was employing the pronoun in a general sense.  Many apologies, My Lady!

By the way, Ket, thanks for adding that photo!  Very cool... :)

Spel


* Indeed, just a couple of weeks ago an article in The Economist returned to Dr. John Ioannidis's "Why Most Published Research Findings Are False"; unfortunately, the problem is as real now as it was three years ago.