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Saturday October 18, 2008

World’s longest insect named after KK naturalist

KOTA KINABALU: An affinity for the unique stick insect has paid off for Sabah amateur naturalist Datuk Chan Chew Lun with the world’s longest insect being named after him.

Measuring well over 30cm, the stick insect was officially named Phobaticus chani, or Chan’s megastick, in this month’s issue of the scientific journal Zootaxa by British scientist Philip Bragg.

London’s Natural History Museum scientific associate Paul Brock was quoted as saying that the stick insect was the longest still in existence and this assessment was confirmed by Marco Gottardo, an entomologist at Italy’s Natural History Museum of Ferrara; and Aaron T. Dossey, a resear­cher at the University of Florida in Gainesville who studies the insects.

Chan said he was honoured to have the stick insect named after him.

Big find: Chan showing the world’s longest insect, stick insect found at Ulu Moyog in Penampang district in 1989, when he handed it over to the British Museum of Natural History late last year.

“This is something so special. After all, how many people would have the world’s largest insect named after them?” said Chan, who runs the Kota Kinabalu-based Natural History Pub­lications.

Chan said he had been collecting all types of stick insects since 1981 and had even written a number of articles about the creatures.

He would go out to meet villagers and ask them to obtain specimens of the insect for him.

“One day in 1989, I met a farmer who handed over this huge stick insect he found somewhere at Ulu Moyog in Penampang district and I realised that it could be a totally new species,” he said.

He eventually sent the specimen to Bragg late last year. It resembled a pencil-thin dark green bamboo shoot measuring nearly 56cm if its twig-like legs were counted. Its body length was 35cm, beating the previous record held by Phobaeticus kirbyi.

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