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Specimens of stick and leaf insects, and a stag-horned deer-fly and other insects

Specimens of stick and leaf insects, and a stag-horned deer-fly and other insects

Catalogue number: Drawer 28

Wallace's specimens of stick and leaf insects, a stag-horned deer-fly and other insects from Asia.

This drawer of Wallace's south-east Asian insect specimens is one that was restored from a jigsaw of broken limbs and bodies. The result is a magnificent display of 31 individuals, among which are stick and leaf insects (Phasmida), praying mantids (Mantodea), bush-crickets and grasshoppers (Orthoptera), and ants (Hymenoptera: Formicidae).
Looking carefully at the middle-right of this drawer you can see a tiny fly. This is from a group of flies (genus Phytalmia) found in New Guinea and Australia. The males have extraordinary projections from their heads, which look almost like the antlers of deer.  Males use these 'antlers' in combat. They guard the places where females lay their eggs on rotting logs and fight other males that land there.

In Wallace's book The Malay Archipelago (1869) he notes that the flies 'are about half an inch long, slender-bodied, and with very long legs, which they draw together so as to elevate their bodies high above the surface they are standing upon...the horns spring from beneath the eye, and seem to be a prolongation of the lower part of the orbit. In the largest and most singular species, named Elaphomia cervicornis or the stag-horned deer-fly, these horns are nearly as long as the body...' The specimen in this drawer is a male of the stag-horned deer-fly (Phytalmia cervicornis), collected by Wallace on Waigeo Island, Irian Jaya. There is a woodcut on page 502 of the book captioned 'antlered flies'.

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Wallace Letters Online

Letter to Alfred Russel Wallace from the Royal Society, about his Darwin Medal award

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