I recently saw a post on the Facebook page "Entomemeology" (which bills itself as, "the internet's premier Entomology Meme & Humor Community" — check it out if you like bugs, and humor) describing the weird and wonderful world of stickbug eggs. The post read, "So apparently stickbug eggs look like tiny pots and they hatch out by opening the lids and crawling out." The post also included a photo of various types of stickbug eggs, which do, indeed, all look like tiny intricately handcrafted vessels. Who knew?
I decided to poke around the internet and find out more, and came across this article in JSTORDaily that provided more information about stick insects (also known as "phasmids") and their eggs. According to that piece, many phasmid eggs look just like seeds, which lots of other animals like to eat. James MacDonald, the author of the JSTORDaily piece asks, then, "Why would an animal that looks so inconspicuous have eggs that resemble a tasty snack?" Turns out it's an adaptation that actually helps protect the critters inside the eggs, both before and after they hatch. The eggs resemble seeds, in that both phasmid eggs and seeds have unusual appendages on one end. On an actual seed, this appendage is filled with fat, which attracts ants, who take the seeds to their nests and bury them. However, ants can't seem to tell the difference between actual seeds (that have the fat) and phasmid eggs (that don't), so along with seeds, they also pick up phasmid eggs and take them back to their nests to bury. MacDonald explains:
The buried eggs gain protection from parasitic wasps. Baby stick bugs then hatch safely beneath a couple centimeters of soil. The whole system is a great example of convergent evolution, when two completely unrelated organisms, an insect and a plant, independently evolve similar adaptations.
So, in the end, the eggs' cool appearance helps baby stick bugs survive. Pretty neat, right? And while scientists insist that the eggs look like seeds, which I can definitely see, I'm much more moved by the description someone provided in a comment on the original Facebook post: "A few of those look like they belong in a drum circle at Coachella." Nature is so groovy, man!