Belgian biologists from the Royal Institute of Natural Sciences (IRSNB) have found three, unknown to date, stick insects in Vietnam. One of the three, 32cm long, is now the second largest insect in the world. In a statement on Thursday, the IRSNB said two of the new species, Phryganistria tamdaoensis and Phryganistria heusii yentuensis can be seen at the Natural Science Museum vivarium. The Phryganistria heusii yentuensis measures 32cm long (54 with its front legs stretched out), making it the second largest living insect ever found. The Phobaeticus chani is also a stick insect and measures about 36cm, says the Institute.
Biologists have been able to collect males, females and eggs, enabling breeding in captivity so they can be studied in more detail. Dozens of unknown species were also brought back by the expedition, which more than doubles the number of species of Vietnamese stick insects known today.
The online journal European Journal of Taxonomy has dedicated a piece to these three new stick insects.
“By studying the stick insects in captivity, we can learn about their different stages of growth, their behaviour, their body structure and colour variations,” says Joachim Bresseel, professor at the Athénée Royal Horteco Vilvoorde and research assistant at the Institute. “We have found that, unlike the females, the males do not vary in colour.”
During their expedition to Vietnam, entomologists also trained local biologists on how to build reference collections of insects, which will enable scientists on site to identify species, and monitor and protect biodiversity.