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Mantophasmatodea (Heelwalkers): colour polymorphism

A number of species exhibit colour polymorphism with specimens in the same population varying dramatically in colour. For example, the population of Austrophasma caledonensis from near Caledon (South Africa) contains specimens that range from brown through green and white to green and cerise, and the populations of Austrophasma gansbaaiensis and Lobophasma redelinghuysensis can have both green and brown morphs. There is excellent substrate matching, as species with green morphs all occupy the more mesic fynbos vegetation, and the grey or drab brown morphs occur in the more arid succulent Karoo. Both males and females exhibit all colour morphs. Camouflage is important for these small predators, who themselves are vulnerable to attack by various Karoo birds, lizards, and other insects such as predaceous katydids (Hemiclonia) which occur in the same microhabitat.

 

Austrophasma_caledonensis

Austrophasma_caledonensis

Austrophasma_caledonensis

Austrophasma_caledonensis

Nymphs of the four different colour morphs present in the same population of Austrophasma caledonensis from the southern Cape near Caledon. Photos Simon van Noort/Iziko

Lobophasma_redelinghuysensis

Lobophasma_redelinghuysensis

Lobophasma_redelinghuysensis

Lobophasma_redelinghuysensis

Colour morphs of Lobophasma redelinghuysensis. Photos Mike Picker

Austrophasma_gansbaaiensis

Austrophasma_gansbaaiensis

The two colour morphs present in the same population of Austrophasma gansbaaiensis from Grootbos. Photos Mike Picker

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Web page development and text by Simon van Noort (Iziko South African Museum) and Mike Picker (University of Cape Town)


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