Stick Insects Sway to Stay Alive

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If you ever owned a pet stick insect as a child, you might have noticed them swaying back and forth at the end of a twig, but until recently, nobody knew what this strange behaviour was for.

A study recently published in the journal Behavioral Ecology reveals what this strange behaviour is all about. Observing the behaviour of stick insects in natural conditions, the team found that stick insects swayed in windy conditions, and were most likely to do so when the wind speed was highly variable. The frequency of the stick insects movements matched the way plants natural move in the wind, so the authors believe the sway may add to their camouflage, convincing predators that they really are a just a stick, moving in the wind.

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Thanks to Dorothy Floyd for pointing out that we have known anecdotally that this behaviour was likely a form of camouflage for several decades! (see Floyd (1987) Keeping Stick Insects)

Featured image is used under a creative commons license from Wikimedia Commons. Original image by Stephan M. Höhne

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