Mysterious Troll-Haired Insect Discovered In South American Rainforest
Remember troll dolls? The ones that were all the rage in the 1960's and then for brief periods of time from the 1970's to 1990's? Well it turns out that nature has it own version and as usual, it is a lot better looking than the one created by humans.
This adorable insect which was unveiled recently, was amongst the 60 new creatures found by ecologists on an expedition to South America's Suriname rainforest in 2012. Measuring a mere 7 mm long, it has a gorgeous gold body adorned with bright orange dots and stripes. But its most distinct feature is its hair that resembles the popular toy dolls. However in the case of the insect, the tufts emanate from the rear of the body and are made of wax produced by specialized glands in the insect's abdomen.
While scientists are not sure of the purpose of the 'hair', Trond Larsen, the researcher that captured the tiny insect on camera believes that it may be to distract predators into attacking the wrong part of the body. As they try to grab the insect, the wax breaks off, allowing it to leap away to safety.
As for what this insect is? While Larsen suspects it to be a member of the planthopper family that are known to exude these tufts of wax, there is no way to confirm if that is indeed the case. That's because as he was snapping the gorgeous photo, the nimble insect snuck away into the thick vegetation and was not seen again, during the rest of the expedition.
Another reason the insect's true identity may remain unknown is that it was still in the nymph or second stage of transformation for insects that undergo simple metamorphosis. This makes it difficult for scientists to know what it will look like as an adult. Though Dr. Larsen has compared and even narrowed the newly found 'troll' insect down to four possibilities, its true identity may remain a mystery until another one can be found.
Other fun, slightly less exotic creatures discovered in what scientists call one of the world's most 'pristine rainforests', include a chocolate colored frog and one of the tiniest known species of dung beetle.
Resources: huffingtonpost.com,dailymail.co.uk, nationalgeo.com
GeographySuriname, South America
Critical Thinking Challenge
What feature may make this insect particularly susceptible to...