I vividly remember that during a trek we had come across a plum tree out of nowhere in the woods. It was during that Nature Study Camp in the hills of North Bengal, I was told that seeds of plants can travel distances via birds. Birds eat the fruits, move away from the plant, and then poop, depositing the plant’s seeds in a new location. The seed germinates into a plant at a distant site.. I was probably not even ten years old and this information was something I had found extremely fascinating back then.
Now, why am I telling you this?
Scientists believe that stick insects (resemble sticks or sometimes leaves) too may travel far and wide using a similar kind of mechanism. It is not possible for the stick insect with its twig like legs to travel far! If the stick insect can disperse its young ones more widely, it can surely have some evolutionary advantage. Scientists say that it is possible that when stick insects are eaten by birds, some of their eggs survive and come out undigested with the poop. These eggs hatch and produce off-springs.
Mostly, the eggs of insects don’t survive in the digestive tract of the bird. But in this case, the study points out that the eggs are coated in calcium oxalate, a compound that’s somewhat resistant to digestive acid. But this coating is not totally impervious.
According to a study at Kobe University in Japan, 145 eggs from three different species of stick insects were fed to birds. Around 7 percent of the eggs were undamaged by the digestive trip. But none of the eggs hatched. This was a few years back. In 2017, another study was conducted where 70 eggs of the stick insect species Ramulus irregulariterdentatus to a bird common in Japan. Fourteen eggs survived the process of digestion. Two hatched into stick insects. Based on this, it was theorized that eggs in a pregnant female stick insect eaten by a bird could survive the ordeal. Although the odds are slim, scientists believe that this study is important and shouldn’t be underestimated.
So, stick insects have more in common with plants than we had thought!
Image Sources: Google
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