At first glance, it may seem like the top toy of Christmas 2013, but it’s actually a newly discovered insect from South America.
The ‘troll bug’ was discovered by conservation biologist, Trond Larsen and his team of researchers while in the rainforest of southeast Suriname. Dr. Larsen suspects that the bug may be a “nymph,” fitting into one of four nymph families: Dictyopharidae, Nogodinidae, Lophopidae, and Tropiduchidae. The nymph is one of 60 new species that Larsen and his team discovered on their expedition.
“I have spent hours searching drawers of nymphs to compare it to other species, but have only been able to narrow it down from 16 to four,” said Larsen.
The troll-hair-esque part of the nymph is actually made of wax produced by specialized glands in the abdomen. It may serve as a distraction for predators and redirect them to attack less vulnerable parts of the nymph body. Larsen speculates that the wax part would break off while the insect jumps to safety. The waxy “tail” can also serve as a fan to help the insect descend more slowly. It will be fascinating to learn more about this stylish insect as research goes on, especially who their stylist is.
Photo credit: Trond Larsen