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More than 50 amazingly camouflaged giant leaf insects have hatched.
Despite their name, these youngsters are anything but giant – measuring less than 1cm at birth, these invertebrates are smaller than a five pence coin. When fully grown, giant leaf insects grow to approximately 10cm.
The species is the largest known of the leaf insects and has evolved to perfectly mimic leaves. Not only do they look like leaves, but they sound like leaves as they ‘rustle’ when they brush against something and even sway as a leaf would do in a breeze.
The hatchlings are a huge success for the invertebrate team at Bristol Zoo Gardens which has been breeding this species for more than 20 years. This is one of the trickiest of the leaf insects to care for – they need very humid conditions to live in, but dislike being wet.
Senior invertebrate keeper, Carmen Solan, said: “These are really beautiful little creatures and we are delighted with this successful breeding. This is a truly magnificent and surprising species – their camouflage abilities are almost second to none.
“They also have the amazing ability to vibrate their whole body if something tries to eat them.
Not only are they perfectly adapted to avoid being predated upon, but they also have the amazing ability to delay hatching out of their eggs, it can take anything from three months to two years or more!”
In the wild, giant leaf insects are found in the tropical forest of Malaysia. Females lay unfertilised eggs which hatch as female, meaning all babies are clones of their mothers.
The giant leaf insects are one of dozens of species at home in Bug World, from tarantulas, jewel beetles and honey bees, to scorpions, upside down jellyfish and Critically Endangered Lord Howe Island stick insects.
Bug World is also home to one of the rarest spiders in the world – the Desertas wolf spider. We have been leading the captive breeding programme for this spider, over the past four years, to help save the species from extinction.
We recently launched an appeal to ensure the future of our work saving wildlife. Its aim is to safeguard Bristol Zoo Gardens, Wild Place Project and our conservation projects in 10 countries across the world. This is following the temporary closure of both our sites in the face of the Covid-19 pandemic.
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