If there were a competition for the world’s weirdest insect, treehoppers would have a clear shot at first place. See one for the first time and you’re sure to wonder: What are those strange protrusions sprouting from its body?
Many treehoppers flaunt outlandish outcroppings, such as the helicopter-like orbs of Bocydium sp. Others play it coy, mimicking thorns, leaves, or insect droppings. Still others impersonate ants or wasps. Forty-plus named species, as well as another 700 or so awaiting scientific description, resemble drops of rainwater.
Those singular shapes, insect anatomists explain, stem from the treehopper’s specially modified pronotum—a section of the thorax that in other insects resembles a small, shield-like plate. But treehoppers are the creative kids in their class, with their pronota arching into grotesque spires or globes, veritable billboards of their individuality.