The dynamic eggs of the Phasmatodea and their apparent convergence with plants

Abstract

The egg stages of animal life cycles are underappreciated in terms of their capacity for dispersal, protection, and biotic and abiotic interactions. Some of the most intriguing egg morphologies are seen in stick and leaf insects (Phasmatodea). Phasmids are charismatic insects, particularly due to their incredible camouflage, though a lesser-known fact is that their eggs are incredibly diverse in shape and structure, reflecting varying ecological niches. Perhaps most remarkable are those eggs which appear to resemble plant seeds in both their appearance and means of dispersal, such as via water and animal vectors. Numerous hypotheses surrounding the function of these egg morphologies and their apparent convergence with seeds have been proposed; however, empirical evidence remains lacking. Here, we present an initial synthesis of available evidence surrounding the ecology and dispersal strategies of phasmid eggs and weigh up the evidence for convergent evolution between phasmid eggs and seeds. In doing so, we highlight areas where further research is needed and discuss how the ecology of phasmid eggs may interplay with other aspects of phasmid ecology, distribution, and evolution.

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O’Hanlon, J.C., Jones, B.R. & Bulbert, M.W. The dynamic eggs of the Phasmatodea and their apparent convergence with plants. Sci Nat 107, 34 (2020). https://doi.org/10.1007/s00114-020-01690-1

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Keywords

  • Dispersal
  • Stick insects
  • Seeds
  • Egg
  • Myrmecochory
  • Phoresy