17 August, 2008

Phytophagus Phasmid's Phytotaxis and Predator

"Phytophagus Phasmid's Phytotaxis," not really but it sounded good. I was looking in the dictionary for 'phsiognomy' to check out words derived from it for the title of this blog. These two words jumped out at me and demanded use. A phytophagus animal is leaf eating. Phytotaxis refers to the arrangement of leaves. As this and many phasmids have leaf like structures on their legs, I do not think it is stretching things too far to use the newest word in my vocabulary. Back to 'physiognomy;' the face of a phasmid or stick insect does give a bit away about its character. At least it lets us know that it is phytophagus. Phasmids lack the strong jaws and large widely spaced eyes of carnivorous mantids. All phasmids are phytophagus so it is a bit of a tautology.

The Spiny Leaf Insect, Extatosoma tiaratum, has flown around the world but not on its own wings. This insect from north Queensland is available in pet shops in Europe and North America. This large female has tiny wings and cannot fly. When not feeding she hangs vertically or upside down with her tail bent over like a scorpion's. I have observed this girl eat leaves of a fig, a lilly-pilly and an elaeocarpus. The male is slimmer with short fore wings and long hind wings. He will fly in search of a mate but she does not move very far at all. The eggs are shot out all over the place in a random fashion. Some may hatch within weeks but others may take two years.
Pacific Bazas, also known as Crested Hawks, love phasmids. Along with treefrogs they form the main part of the Bazas' diet. Young birds have broader bands on their breast and the most beautiful ochre under wings. Mating displays include swoops, rolls, twig exchange and talon grasping. When they lock talons the top bird glides down with the lower one hanging below with wings folded. The twig exchange takes place when one bird uses greater speed to come up under the other which is carrying the twig and seize it when upside down. Sometimes the top bird will not let go and I have seen both birds tumble towards the ground. When taking larger prey Bazas will sometime launch themselves into the foliage, grab the prey item and fall through the leaves till they come to a clear space where they spread their wings and fly to a perch to feed.
You can see the crest in this picture.


Tyto Tony said...

Gidday Alan,

Welcome to the world of blogging. Good to see lively wildlife stuff with light touch.
And we use same template (helps pix stand out!).

Cheers, Tony Ashton (Tyto Tony - Blogspot and Bigblog)

Mosura said...


Good to find yet another Australian nature blog.

I used to breed Extatosoma tiaratum when I was living in Scotland.

I'll be back to look at more of your posts when I'm more awake :-)


Paul said...

hey Allan,

LOVE your blog. unfortuneately my dad and I didn't have time to go on one of your awesome wildlife tours.... definitely next time.

is there someway i can download your knowledge of ecology into my brain ?

maybe I'll just keep up2date on your blog ~



Alan Gillanders said...

Thanks everyone for your positive comments. Paul, you are still young. I predict that by the time you are this old and ugly you will have left me far behind.