Wednesday, July 29, 2009
Leaf Insects- marvel of nature in Mhadei Wildlife Sanctuary
The forests of the Mhadei Wildlife sanctuary are part of the Western Ghats forests and are teaming with wildlife especially in the monsoons.
Most of this biodiversity of life forms is either ignored or goes unappreciated by visitors as well as nature lovers. From the forest floor to the undergrowth vegetation and the tree canopy, the multitudes of insects, some of which are unique and exceptional are found in these dense forests and need to be valued for their contribution to our ecological, aesthetic and economical factors.
In fact a small walk or nature trail can reveal these natural wonders and every single life form is a treat to watch and observe for hours on end.
The Leaf Insect is one such life form that is distinctive and exceptional in its shape and behavior too! Fondly also referred to as walking leafs they are closely related to Stick insects and are found in forest habitats in the Mhadei Wildlife sanctuary. They belong to the Class Insecta and Family Phyllidae of which there are 35 plus known species so far to the world of science and all these are found in the tropical region of our planet. Scientists studying these insects have stated that these creatures have not significantly changed for the last 50 million years ever since they have first evolved!
Completely herbivorous and nocturnal in nature, these insects are normally found at eye level in undisturbed forest habitats as well as fringe forests near human habitation. During the day, they rest on leaves of plants that match their body patterns and some species have reached a remarkable degree of camouflage, making them highly indistinguishable for the untrained eye. Excellent mimics, the leaf insect has been observed to sway along with the leaves that it rests, especially when approached by a predator.
The specimen in the photograph was documented in the forests of Surla in the Mhadei Wildlife sanctuary and is an uncommon species to come across due to its excellent camouflage and low numbers. Very little is known of the ecology and breeding behavior of these creatures and more studies in this aspect are the need of the hour. Species like the leaf insect are the true marvels of the Mhadei Wildlife Sanctuary.