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Just like Mum

March 26, 2023

EM keeps Giant Prickly Leaf Insects (Extatosoma tiaratum), pictured left. As pets they are pretty low maintenance. Once every few days you have to change the eucalyptus leaves on which they feed and in return you get just as much effort – very little. These insects are night creatures so when you get up in the morning they may have changed position on the gum foliage but during the day you’d be lucky to see a leg move.

They do however produce lots of droppings and lots of eggs that they unceremoniously drop on the bench. The job in the morning is to separate the eggs (pictured below) from the poo. What started off as three adult animals, one male and two much larger females has now dwindled to a single female. It still produces viable eggs though.

Leaf insects like many stick insects do not necessarily need a male and female parent to produce offspring. They can also reproduce by a process known as parthenogenesis (from the Greek parthenos meaning  virgin and genesis meaning origin). An embryo can develop from an unfertilised egg. The offspring produced are female.

Last week a squeal of delight from EM heralded the arrival of the first offspring (pictured left). Given its parthenogenetic origin it is safe to say that it looks (or will look) just like Mum although measuring a mere 5mm in length it has a long way to go to match Mum’s 14cm size.

Looks like collecting gum leaves is on the agenda for quite a while yet.

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