Lichen katydid

I won’t repeat why I’m so enamored with mimicry, except to say that it shows how powerful natural selection can be. Here’s a mimetic insect that was just brought to my attention by Matthew Cobb, courtesy of Canadian science communicator Ziya Tong.

Meet the lichen katydid, Markia hystrix, from Central and South America. It’s a herbivore and apparently lives in the forest canopy. First I’ll show two photos, and then two videos showing its remarkable crypsis (camouflage), said to make it look like a lichen (try typing those last four words without making an error):


Photo from Bug Under Glass 

h/t: Tw**t by Ziya Tong


  1. jeffery
    Posted September 14, 2016 at 10:23 am | Permalink

    Simply amazing- it looks like something that someone crocheted together (I’m not certain of how the past tense of “crochet” is spelled)!

  2. Kevin
    Posted September 14, 2016 at 10:33 am | Permalink

    Just wow.

    There is nothing in the un-living world that I can think of that employs mimicry. It is a wholly attributable trait to something that is living.

    Why would a gas or solid mimic? As a state that might minimize energy I can think of no state of matter or element that does this, except living organisms.

    Even if these living organism don’t realize their own intentions, it is like a form of complexity IN ADDITION to the complexity that is already there.

  3. Posted September 14, 2016 at 10:41 am | Permalink

    If only I could list this talent on my curriculum vitae.

  4. busterggi
    Posted September 14, 2016 at 10:44 am | Permalink

    Kinda makes you wonder what you’ve seen but didn’t know you saw. I’ve only found two stick insects in my almost 62 years so I know thy are out there around me, seen more tree grasshoppers that mimic leaves but only because storms tend to leave them injured/dead on the ground, I’ve never seen one actually in the trees.

  5. Barry Lyons
    Posted September 14, 2016 at 10:55 am | Permalink

    I simply cannot wrap my head around mimicry in nature. I just don’t understand how a creature “knows” how to imitate its surroundings (yes, the scare quotes means I’m being facetious). It’s utterly, totally, and completely baffling to me.

    • GBJames
      Posted September 14, 2016 at 11:39 am | Permalink

      Just like you and I “know” how to grow skin.

    • Taz
      Posted September 14, 2016 at 12:37 pm | Permalink

      The ones that don’t “know” get eaten.

      • JohnnieCanuck
        Posted September 14, 2016 at 6:29 pm | Permalink

        Leaving the ones that know just a little bit more to make babies.

        Speaking of which I’ve got to hand it to them just for ‘knowing’ how to mate with each other. Carefully, I guess. Especially the letting go part.

  6. Mark R.
    Posted September 14, 2016 at 12:03 pm | Permalink

    Now that is amazing.

    What’s the difference between a katydid and a grasshopper? Looks like a hopper to me. Maybe it’s like a toad/frog, turtle/tortoise comparison. ?

    • Posted September 14, 2016 at 12:58 pm | Permalink

      I’m not an expert but I think grasshoppers have short stubby antennae and katydids have long threadlike antennae. The subject of this post is most definitely a katydid.

      • Damien McLeod
        Posted September 14, 2016 at 2:19 pm | Permalink

        It may not be a katydid but it’s awfully damn cute.— give it full protection under the law if it doesn’t already have it! Protect is from rapacious human beings so it may live long and prosper!

    • Mark Sturtevant
      Posted September 14, 2016 at 1:05 pm | Permalink

      There are various differences. Grasshoppers have short antennae, and males ‘sing’ (stridulate) by rubbing their hind legs against their body. Katydids have long antennae, and like related insects we call crickets they sing by rubbing their wings together. Grasshoppers have ears at the base of their abdomen, and katydids and crickets have ears on their front legs.
      So that raises the question about the difference between katydids and crickets. These insects are related, and some crickets look katydid-like and vice-versa in overall look. But one difference is their feet. Crickets have 3 segmented feet, and katydids have feet with 4 segments.

      • Mark R.
        Posted September 14, 2016 at 4:08 pm | Permalink

        Thanks for the information Mark (and Lou), very interesting indeed.

  7. Damien McLeod
    Posted September 14, 2016 at 12:39 pm | Permalink

    WTF Evolution?!?!!

  8. Posted September 14, 2016 at 12:59 pm | Permalink

    Nature constantly amazes with the illusions it creates driven by natural selection. Thanks for sharing!

  9. Mark Sturtevant
    Posted September 14, 2016 at 1:07 pm | Permalink

    I can just picture someone excitedly finding this, and holding it up to show around, and it jumps, landing in a big pile of lichens. Never to be seen again.

  10. Heather Hastie
    Posted September 14, 2016 at 4:26 pm | Permalink

    This is so cool!

    • Damien McLeod
      Posted September 14, 2016 at 4:45 pm | Permalink

      I agree completely, evolution filling every available niche with whatever work best for any given life form in so many myriad ways.It’s amazing, it’s cool, it’s awesome.

      • frednotfaith2
        Posted September 14, 2016 at 10:15 pm | Permalink

        I fully agree too! Great photos.

        • Damien McLeod
          Posted September 14, 2016 at 10:39 pm | Permalink

          They are great photos aren’t they?

  11. kevin7alexander
    Posted September 14, 2016 at 6:20 pm | Permalink

    I like a lichen lookalike like I like a lichen. A lichen lookalike and a lichen look alike, that I like.
    Ok, I take a hike now.

    • JohnnieCanuck
      Posted September 14, 2016 at 6:32 pm | Permalink

      Respect. Even more if you can say all that ten times quickly and correctly.

  12. keith cook +/-
    Posted September 16, 2016 at 1:00 am | Permalink

    hmmm..I wonder if that was a lettuce salad i had to`night! it was crunchy?

    • Damien McLeod
      Posted September 16, 2016 at 1:42 am | Permalink

      I don’t know what katydid’s taste like but tiny green half inch long slug’s that sometimes hide on lettuce leaves and end up in salad taste absolutely horrid.

  13. Joanne
    Posted September 28, 2016 at 4:06 pm | Permalink

    It kind of walks carefully like a chameleon. Watch it grab something then test it before moving its weight there.

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