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Sticky situation.

Look closely: Those aren't twigs on this zookeeper's face, they're insects! The bugs, known as walking sticks, look and act just like their namesake--sticks--to help them hide from predators.

"Walking sticks are camouflaged to look like something an animal wouldn't want to eat," says Linda Rayor, an entomologist, or scientist who studies insects, at Cornell University in New York. About 3,000 different species of these bugs can be found all over the world. Some are less than 2.5 centimeters (1 inch) long, while others can be more than 30 cm (12 in.).

The walking sticks pictured look like twigs, but other stick insects look like leaves. They have flat bodies with one dark-green side, one light-green side, and detailed markings that resemble plant veins.

But it's not just their appearance that keeps stick insects from being noticed by predators like birds and lizards. "Walking sticks are so special because they also act like plants," says Rayor. "It's hard to see them because they don't walk straight--they sway like twigs or leaves being blown in the wind."

Only a trained handler should hold a walking-stick insect. They have pointy barbs on their legs that help them cling to vegetation--or to this man's face!

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Title Annotation:GROSS OUT; stick insects
Author:Klein, Andrew
Publication:Science World
Article Type:Brief article
Geographic Code:1USA
Date:Mar 26, 2012
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