Stick Bugs Could Be Thriving by Getting Pooped Out of Birds

By Ryan F. Mandelbaum on at

If you wanna thrive on this planet, you have to figure out a way to be fruitful and multiply. If you’re a stick bug, that could mean getting pooped out of a bird.

Researchers from Japan fed stick bug eggs to birds and the eggs turned out just fine. It’s a simple experiment, but it has important implications.

“Bird predation could be an important factor in the long-distance dispersal of stick insects in Japan,” according to the short paper published by the Japanese scientists published in the journal Ecology.

The circle of life

You’re probably familiar with the stick bug — it’s a bug that’s evolved to look like a stick so other animals won’t notice it. On top of their stick-like appearance, their eggs have extremely hard shells and look like seeds.

Their camouflage hasn’t stopped the bugs from occasionally being eaten by birds. But if the bugs’ eggs look like seeds, perhaps birds would poop them intact like seeds, too, thought the scientists. So in a few experiments, they fed over 200 eggs from three stick bug species to a few brown-eared bulbuls, a common species of Asian bird.

Between 5 and 10 percent of the eggs passed through the birds’ digestive tracts without any physical damage in one experiment, and 20 percent remained intact in another. Maybe in nature, a bird eats a female stick bug, flies away, and poops out the hard eggs, which grow into mature stick bugs elsewhere in Japan.

The researchers recognize that they’re just putting forth a hypothesis, and present their results with a grain of salt. They didn’t try to feed the birds mature stick bugs, nor did they observed the behavior in the wild.

They did confirm that eggs hatched for one of the stick bug species in a press release.

Stick bug eggs taken from the poop and the stick bug born out of a bird poop egg

This wouldn’t be the first time a living thing passed through a digestive tract as a part of the circle of life. Birds spread seeds by pooping then, and snakes could be spreading seeds by eating and pooping mice who ate seeds.

Life finds a way — even if it requires getting pooped out of a bird first.