The family Phylliidae (often misspelled Phyllidae) contains the extant true leaf insects or walking leaves, which include some of the most remarkably camouflaged leaf mimics (mimesis) in the entire animal kingdom. They occur from South Asia through Southeast Asia to Australia. Earlier sources treat Phylliidae as a much larger taxon, containing genera in what are presently considered to be several different families.


Leaf insects are camouflaged taking on the appearance of leaves. They do this so accurately that predators often are not able to distinguish them from real leaves. In some species the edge of the leaf insect's body even has the appearance of bite marks. To further confuse predators, when the leaf insect walks, it rocks back and forth, to mimic a real leaf being blown by the wind.The scholar Antonio Pigafetta probably was the first to document the creature. Sailing with Ferdinand Magellan's circumnavigational expedition, he studied and chronicled the fauna on the island of Cimbonbon as the fleet hauled ashore for repairs. During this time he documented the Phyllium species with the following passage:

Tribes, Genera and Species

The Phasmida Species File (V. 5.0) lists the following:

Tribe Nanophylliini

Distribution: Australasia, New Guinea; auth. Zompro & Grösser, 2003

  • Nanophyllium Redtenbacher, 1906
  • Nanophyllium adisi Zompro & Grösser, 2003
  • Nanophyllium hasenpuschi Brock & Grösser, 2008
  • Nanophyllium pygmaeum Redtenbacher, 1906
  • Nanophyllium rentzi Brock & Grösser, 2008

    Tribe Phylliini

    Distribution: Australasia, Asia, Pacific; auth. Brunner, 1893

  • Chitoniscus Stål, 1875 (Australasia)
  • Chitoniscus brachysoma Sharp, 1898
  • Chitoniscus erosus Redtenbacher, 1906
  • Chitoniscus feejeeanus Westwood, 1864
  • Chitoniscus lobipes Redtenbacher, 1906
  • Chitoniscus lobiventris Blanchard, 1853
  • Chitoniscus sarrameaensis Grösser, 2008
  • Microphyllium Zompro, 2001 (Philippines)
  • Microphyllium haskelli Cumming, 2017
  • Microphyllium pusillulum (Rehn & Rehn, 1934)
  • Microphyllium spinithorax Zompro, 2001

  • Phyllium Illiger, 1798 (Australasia, Asia, Pacific).
    Selected species:
  • Phyllium athanysus Westwood, 1859
  • Phyllium bioculatum Gray, R.G., 1832
  • Phyllium bilobatum Gray, R.G., 1843
  • Phyllium brevipenne Grösser, 1992
  • Phyllium celebicum De Haan, 1842
  • Phyllium ericoriai Hennemann, Conle, Gottardo & Bresseel, 2009
  • Phyllium geryon Gray, 1843
  • Phyllium giganteum Hausleithner, 1984
  • Phyllium hausleithneri Brock], 1999
  • Phyllium jacobsoni Rehn, J.A.G. & Rehn, J.W.H., 1934
  • Phyllium mabantai Bresseel, Hennemann, Conle & Gottardo, 2009
  • Phyllium philippinicum Hennemann, Conle, Gottardo & Bresseel, 2009
  • Phyllium siccifolium (Linnaeus, 1758)
  • Phyllium westwoodii Wood-Mason, 1875
  • Pseudomicrophyllium Cumming, 2017 (North Luzon)
  • Pseudomicrophyllium faulkneri Cumming, 2017

    Extinct species

    A 47-million-year-old fossil of Eophyllium messelensis, a prehistoric ancestor of Phylliidae, displays many of the same characteristics of modern leaf insects, indicating that this family has changed little over time.