The Insectarium de Montréal is home to a whole team of insect enthusiasts! Two of these experts are Stéphane Le Tirant and Royce T. Cumming, who set up a rather unusual team four years ago: Team Phyllie. The two researchers decided to focus on the leaf insect family: the Phylliidae.
Their fascination with Phylliidae enabled a giant step to be taken in the study of leaf insects, with the discovery and description of new species. The team has acquired significant expertise, describing 27 new species, out of 100 known species in the world. The most recent achievement was the review of the celebicum group, which led to the description of a new genus and 13 new species!
Leaf insects mimic leaves perfectly, and individuals look very much alike. To differentiate the various species, a number of steps had to be taken, partly involving traditional means such as physical description, but also genetic analysis and the study of eggs and larvae right from the initial stages.
International cooperation between researchers in the United States, Germany, Belgium, China and Canada was crucial to the success of the research.
Something to discover when the Insectarium reopens
A number of types will be added to the Insectarium’s scientific collection, making the institution the world’s leading collector of Phylliidae. Included in the collection are two new species dedicated to Quebecers: Cryptophyllium limogesi, whose name pays tribute to Insectarium technician René Limoges and his photographs of insects, and Cryptophyllium bankoi, named in honour of Alexandre Banko, a long-standing collaborator and former guide at the Insectarium.
The article Cryptophyllium, the hidden leaf insects – descriptions of a new leaf insect genus and thirteen species from the former celebicum species group (Phasmatodea, Phylliidae), written by Insectarium associate researcher Royce T. Cumming and Insectarium scientific collection curator Stéphane Le Tirant, along with six others, was published on February 18, 2021, in the scientific journal ZooKeys.