Insect Disguised as Leaf: What is It?

Leech
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We received a very strange question involving a “tiny sucker mouth” (or suckermouth) and what may be a type of insect disguised as a leaf (a “greenish, grey leaf,” more precisely) from a reader recently. The reader was out trapping minnows in a small pond in Wyoming when he came across a leaf insect (or whatever it is), and at first he didn’t know what he was looking at. However, when he poked the (evidently) living leaf, which is about the size of a nickel, it curled up. The insect that looks like leaf, if it is an insect, eventually stretched back out, revealing a whitish underside and, more surprisingly, the “tiny sucker mouth” mentioned earlier. The reader has “no clue” what he found, so he wrote to see if we might be able to identify the insect leaf with a sucker mouth (or suckermouth).

Although we get asked difficult questions all the time, we find this one particularly baffling. The reader seems to be describing two completely different creatures, neither of which have to do with worms or worm-like creatures (chiefly larvae), which is of course our focus. (We are, after all, All About Worms.) We also have no picture to work with, which would have been very helpful in this instance, as we can barely begin to picture what our reader found.

There are several insects that look like leaves, and indeed there is an entire taxonomic family, Phylliidae, that consists of these various leaf insect species. They disguise themselves as leaves to protect themselves from predators, an example of biological mimicry. These insects look remarkably like leaves, and even the way they walk imitates the way a leaf blows. These are the only creatures we know of that truly look like leaves. However, they are found in southern China and Australia, very far from the small pond in Wyoming in which our reader is catching minnow.

Even supposing there is some sort of insect that looks like a leaf in Wyoming, which for all we know is possible, we have no idea how to account for the “sucker mouth” found on this creature. Suckermouths (one word) are a feature of certain types of fish, not insects. Perhaps a fish with a suckermouth could be found in a pond in Wyoming, but it wouldn’t look like a nickel-sized insect that resembles a leaf. The one creature we can think of that has something like a suckermouth and is in the size range indicated by our reader is a leech. There are leaches in the fresh waters of North America, so we suppose it is possible to find them in a pond in Wyoming. However, a leech does not in any real way match the physical description submitted by our reader of what he found.

So, we must conclude this article the way we started it, with uncertainty. We wish we could at least offer some live possibilities, but we are at a loss. If any readers have seen anything like what our reader found, or if you have any idea what he found, please leave a comment below.

Thumbnail photo credit: Holleday / CC-BY-SA-3.0

 

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Insect Disguised as Leaf: What is It?
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We received a very strange question from a reader recently about what may be a type of insect disguised as a leaf.
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