On Wednesday we had some extra special visitors in class, and I don’t care what anyone says, these little guys were SO adorable! A motley crew of Arthropods came in and we got to learn about them, hang out with them, and hold them.
Arthropoda is the largest animal phylum, and 85% of all known animals are arthropods! They have segmented bodies and jointed legs/limbs. Another defining trait of Arthropods is their exoskeleton which serves as protection.
This little guy that I had the honor of meeting is an Easter Lubber Grasshopper. They have an especially romantic adaptation where they are devoted to protecting their mate and will risk their lives for them! They are also vegetarians (or rather, herbivores)! Because of this, they eat mostly fruit and leaves, so their feces is pretty similar to jam (yummy). You may be able to spot their vestigial wings in this video — those are left over from ancient ancestors who used wings, but modern Lubber Grasshoppers have no need for them and do not fly. They are very brightly colored! Got any guesses why? That’s right, they’re poisonous! The bodies of Eastern Lubbers contain chemicals that are toxic to ingest.
Next up we have the Giant African Millipede. This guy had about 40 segments and, with 4 feet per segment (2 on each side), came in with a whopping 160 legs — and let me tell you, all of them felt so weird and cool crawling around on my hands. Some Millipedes can grow up to 300 legs, be 2 feet long, and live to be 20 years old! They are decomposers and their exoskeletons are very fragile and will shatter if put under too much pressure. One fun fact about them is that they can curl their bodies up with their heads in the middle for protection like this:
Now it’s time for you to meet this adorable little Australian Walking Stick! These guys are native to Australia and are herbivores. The first thing you might notice about this one is that he has great camouflage. Australian Walking Sticks eat leaves and live in trees, so their leaf-like appearance serves as fantastic protection for them.
And last but certainly not least, we have the Madagascar Hissing Cockroach. At first I was scared to hold this one because cockroaches are pretty fast moving, but Jonathan the insect expert showed us how to make them fall asleep in our hands. The trick is to warm up your hand a little then hold it over the cockroach to make it dark for them. Hissing cockroaches use their voice both when they feel threatened and for mating rituals. They have extra durable exoskeletons too! One fun fact about them is that the females hold their fertilized eggs inside of them and the eggs hatch inside their bodies and then the mothers give birth to live young.
I had such an awesome time meeting all these fun, fascinating Arthropods! A big shoutout to Jonathan for teaching us about these animals and helping us hold them and to the Arthropods for being so patient and brave!
PS: Please excuse my vertical videos — I was too distracted and caught up in hanging out with our new friends to remember the horizontal video rule!