Photo: Sergio Monteiro/Public domain
The Brazilian treehopper, a pea-sized bug that lives in the rainforest and spends its days feasting on treetop leaves, is probably likely the most otherworldly-looking species on our planet.
We’ve featured a lot of strange-looking creatures on Oddity Central, from the double-nosed Andean tiger dog to the painting-like “Picasso fish,” but none of them compare to the weird Bocydium globulare or the Brazilian treehopper. This tiny, solitary insect resembles something out of a sci-fi/horror film, with a headpiece made out of four spheres of chitin coated in many bristles, implying they have some sensory function, but scientists have no idea what these strange balls truly do.
Some scientists believe the strange head ornament evolved to resemble the pods of a parasitic fungus called Ophiocordyceps unilateralis, which takes over the minds and bodies of ants, turning them into zombies before literally burst. The likeness would be enough to deter certain predators.
Cicadas are linked to treehoppers (Membracidae). There are approximately 3000 kinds of treehoppers found on every continent except Antarctica, yet only the Brazilian version wears this alien-like headpiece. Aside from its out-of-this-world appearance, the treehopper is a completely regular tiny insect that spends its days searching for food and reproducing the species.
When photographs of a famous, wonderfully built model of the bug created by legendary science sculptor Alfred Keller (1902—1955) are published on social media, most commenters suggest that it cannot be a replica of a real insect. It is, indeed, true!