When most visitors think about seeing giant animals at the Cincinnati Zoo, Asian elephants, Burmese pythons or Maasai giraffe immediately come to mind. Few would think to look for giant animals in the World of the Insect exhibit. While none of our animals attain the weight, length, or height of the giant vertebrates, some lay claim to being among the largest insects in the world.
Two of my personal favorites are the Malayan leaf katydid (Macrolyristes corporalis) and the Giant walking stick (Phobaeticus serratipes).
While no one knows for sure, the Malayan leaf katydid might well be the largest katydid in the world. It certainly dwarfs our native katydids; the largest adults measure nearly six inches in length with antennae stretching out another seven inches. These placid titans inhabit the tropical rainforests of Malaysia. Like their American cousins, their leaf green coloration provides them with great camouflage so they’re more likely to be heard than seen, especially at night when males and females “sing” to one another by stridulating (rubbing the bases of their wings together). At the Zoo, we feed them a diet of romaine lettuce, apple, and cucumber.
Also from Malaysia, the giant walking stick is generally recognized as the longest insect in the world. The largest known specimen measured a whopping 16 inches. Their long, slender green or brown bodies and their deliberate movements allow them to avoid tree-dwelling predators like monitor lizards and civets. These insects hatch at night from tiny eggs dropped randomly to the forest floor by adult females, climbing immediately to the jungle canopy where they’ll spend their entire lives. We feed these behemoths a diet of white oak leaves.
These living jewels share the rainforests of Malaysia with other animals that can be seen at the Cincinnati Zoo such as Malayan tigers, Sumatran rhinos, king cobras and rhinoceros hornbills. It is estimated that one in five of the world’s animal species call Malaysia home.
Visit the World of the Insect to learn more about these FIANT insects.
Winton Ray/Team Leader – World of the Insect