World's longest insect is in top 10

29 May 2009

The world's longest insect, currently on display at the Natural History Museum, has been voted one of the top 10 species of 2008, it was reported last week.

Experts at the International Institute for Species Exploration (IISE) at Arizona State University chose the 56.7cm-long stick-insect from the thousands of new species named in 2008.

Other species in this year's top 10 list include a pea-sized sea-horse, a palm that flowers itself to death and a caffeine-free coffee bean.

A new species
Datuk Chan Chew Lun donates this spectacular specimen to the Museum.

Datuk Chan Chew Lun donates this spectacular specimen to the Museum.

The new stick-insect, from Borneo, was given its scientific name Phobaeticus chani in 2008 (Chan's Megastick is its common name).

‘This species fully deserves its place on the IISE list since it isn't every day that a newly discovered species beats the previous holder to the title of world's longest insect.,’ says George Beccaloni, stick-insect expert at the Natural History Museum.

‘The previous record holder was champion for over 100 years until Chan's Megastick unexpectedly dropped out of a rainforest tree.’

Virtually unknown

Virtually nothing is known about Phobaeticus chani's biology and ecology, although it is thought to live in the canopy of the rainforest, making it especially hard to find.

Stick-insect at the Museum

The super-sized female specimen was named and studied by Dr Philip Bragg and was then donated to the Natural History Museum by Datuk Chan Chew Lun.

The spectacular specimen is currently on display in the Museum’s Creepy Crawlies gallery.

Variety of life
Close-up of head of stick-insect Chan's Megastick

Close-up of head of stick-insect Chan's Megastick

Each year thousands of new plants and animals are discovered by scientists. 

Some are extinct like the 500-million-year-old marine predator Hurdia Victoria, and some are still living such as the Dracula minnow, a tiny zebrafish with huge teeth, from Myanmar.

Scientists estimate there are between 5-50 million species on the planet and only 1.8 million of them have been named so far.

Need for taxonomy

Taxonomy experts are needed to help understand this great diversity of life. They name and describe living and fossil organisms as well as try to determine how they are related to one another.

The world-class collections at the Museum include around 70 million specimens. They are studied by taxonomists and scientists, working at the Museum and from around the world. 

Top 10 nominations

Nominations for the IISE top 10 list were made by the public as well as experts. The final ten were chosen by an international group of taxonomists.

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