This is a great headline! Curious about the evolutionary process of the leaf insect, I was Googling their predators when this statement popped up in my search returns. Unfortunately there was no content when I followed the link.
It suggests to me, however, that pandas might eat leaf insects: I know leaf insects are often called “walking leaves”, and Pandas include several leafy greens in their diet and share common habitats with leaf insects in China. I suppose that pandas may occasionally grab a leaf insect, or walking leaf, for a snack, mistaking it for a real leaf. This wouldn’t be a problem for the Panda, as they like to include a little animal protein in their diet as well as leaves.
I couldn’t find out much else about what eats leaf insects. I bet slugs would - I know they eat just about anything leafy in my garden and porch, and enjoy the occasional insect as well as greens, so pandas and slugs probably eat leaf insects. I did discover stick insects will eat them too (which seems cannibalistic as they are so closely related) but only when other food is scarce.
I have yet to find evidence that humans eat leaf insects, but I would imagine they fry up nice and crispy ...
As for leaf insects, they eat leaves, and they change colour depending on what kind of leaf they eat as they are so highly adaptable to their environment. Creature Features at abc.net.au say: “If you feed them rose bush or wattle tree leaves they will become a bright green. However, if you feed them eucalyptus they generally turn a shade of brown”. A pet you can colour-coordinate to match your mood or decor by feeding it! What a lovely thought.
I have only just discovered this amazing and decorative creature. It came about as an indirect result of making the drawing Falling From Trees, during which my mark-making process led me to create creatures which looked as though they were made from leaves, and I did the writing which went into the drawing. At the same time, by coincidence, I was attracted to a photo on Instagram of a praying mantis. Research on praying mantis led me accidentally to leaf insects, and I was gripped. How long have leaf insects been around? At least 47 million years, it would seem.
Above is a beautiful fossil of a leaf insect. “The fossil was collected in the lacustrine deposits at Messel in Germany, which are 47 million years old. The completeness and state of preservation of the fossil is exceptional; the fossil shows almost exactly the same cryptic morphology as extant male leaf insects” - pnas.org
Longer than humans? An article in The Guardian (photo above) by science editor Ian Sample states:
“A lower jaw bone and five teeth discovered on a hillside in Ethiopia are the oldest remains ever found that belong to the genus Homo, the lineage that ultimately led to modern humans.
“Around 400,000 years older than previous discovery of homo lineage, 2.8m-year-old jaw and five teeth was found on rocky slope in Afar region.
“The discovery sheds light on a profoundly important but poorly understood period in human evolution that played out between two and three million years ago, when humans began the crucial transformation from ape-like animals into forms that used tools and eventually began to resemble modern humans.”
That’s only 2 - 3 million years against the leaf insect’s 47 million years.
I am amazed, and as always, astonished where the mark-making process of drawing can lead.
THE WEEKLY : BLOG
Heather Eliza Walker
Artist in Edinburgh, Scotland