Morgan-Richards, Mary Allan Wilson Centre for Molecular Ecology and Evolution, Massey University, Palmerston North, New Zealand.
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The order of insects comprising the leaf insects and the stick insects, also known as walking sticks. There are about 2800 species of phasmids (Phasmatodea is alternatively known as Phasmida) cataloged into six families, the majority of which live in the tropics. All are herbivores, and most have a strong resemblance to twigs and sticks (see illustration) with long slender bodies and legs. Phasmatodea species have cryptic coloration: either brown like a stick or green like a leaf. Many species have knobs, spines, and lobes to camouflage themselves, thus avoiding predation from visual predators such as birds and spiders. Stick insects also behave to make themselves appear more sticklike; often they hold their front pair of legs out straight to increase their length and rock side-to-side as if they were swaying in the wind. Members of the family Timemidae (=Phyllidae) are leaf mimics; their bodies and legs are flattened and marked to resemble leaves. See also: Insecta; Protective coloration
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