The Brazilian Treehopper – The Most Alien-Looking Creature on Earth

The Brazilian treehopper, a pea-sized, rainforest-dwelling insect that spends its days munching on treetop leaves, is almost certainly the most otherworldly-looking creature on our planet.

From the double-nosed Andean tiger hound, to the painting-like “Picasso fish“, we’ve featured our share of strange-looking creatures on Oddity Central, but none of them come close to the bizarre Bocydium globulare or the Brazilian treehopper. This tiny, solitary insect looks like something out of a sci-fi/horror film, featuring a headdress made up of four spheres of chitin covered in many bristles, which suggests they have some sensory purpose, but scientists have no idea what these weird balls actually do.

Photo: Sergio Monteiro/Public domain

Some scientists theorize that the spherical structures protect Brazilian treehopper by acting as a dummy head for predators to attack and try to chow down on, while others are convinced that the bizarre 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 bursting out of them, Alien-style. The resemblance alone would be enough to keep some predators at bay.


Treehoppers (Membracidae) are related to the cicadas. There are over 3000 species of treehoppers, and they can be found on every continent except Antarctica, but the Brazilian variant is the only one that sports this alien-like headdress. But other than looking out-of-this-world, the treehopper is a perfectly normal little insect that spends its days looking for food and propagating the species.


A famous, beautifully crafted model of the insect created by legendary science sculptor Alfred Keller (1902—1955) always attracts attention when photos of it are shared on social media, with most comments claiming that it couldn’t be a model of an actual insect. Sure enough, it is!