Rare giant stick insect Lady Gaga-ntuan reveals itself

Stick insect
Lady Gaga-ntuan
Image: Patrick Honan
Source: Museum Victoria

The longest stick insect in Australia has been rediscovered in Far North Queensland by Museum Victoria bug hunters.

“At half a metre long, this is the Holy Grail of stick insects,” said Maik Fiedel, Museum Victoria Live Exhibits keeper “Compared with other large stick insects, it’s like discovering a person who is almost 3 metres tall.”

The stick insect, nicknamed Lady Gaga-ntuan, was discovered near Cairns in January and was only the third female of its species to ever be found. Since the initial discovery of a female by a member of the public in 2005, entomologists have been searching the rainforest high and low for other specimens.

The strangest thing about the insect, however, is that it managed to stay hidden for so long despite its size.

“One theory is that it lives in the canopy of the rainforest. It’s likely Lady Gaga-ntuan fell from the canopy after a strong gust of wind.”

“Stick insects have also evolved to be extremely well camouflaged, which makes finding them difficult. When feeding our stick insects, it can take 20 minutes to find them on a small plant.”

Since its collection, Lady Gaga-ntuan has passed away. “Because of the insect’s huge size and the time of year we found it, it is very likely she was near the end of her natural life,” said Fiedel. “They usually live for 9 to 12 months, so it’s likely we discovered her at the end of that season.”

The collection of Lady Gagan-tuan is integral to understanding this mysterious species.

“The 12 eggs laid by Lady Gaga-ntuan in captivity are expected to hatch in the coming months. It’s our hope we’ll be able to breed this species in captivity to learn more about this fascinating creature and the upper canopy in which it lives.”

The stick insect’s body is now part of Museum Victoria’s entomology collection and will be the subject of future study.

Media contact: Alex Dook
adook@museum.vic.gov.au

Museum Victoria Public Relations contact:
Alex Dook, 8341 7141 / 0478 348 880, adook@museum.vic.gov.au

For all general public enquiries, contact the museum's Discovery Centre

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