A giant stick insect named Phobaeticus chani, meaning 'Chan's megastick.' Britain's Natural History Museum says Malaysian amateur naturalist Datuk Chan Chew Lun discovered the insect on the island of Borneo. ((Natural History Museum/Associated Press))

A stick bug from the island of Borneo measuring over a third of a metre in length has been identified by researchers as the world's longest insect, British scientists said Thursday.

The specimen was found by a local villager and handed to Malaysian amateur naturalist Datuk Chan Chew Lun in 1989, according to Philip Bragg, who formally identified the insect in this month's issue of peer-reviewed journal Zootaxa. The insect was named Phobaeticus chani, or "Chan's megastick," in Chan's honour.

Paul Brock, a scientific associate of the Natural History Museum in London, which is unconnected to the insect's discovery, said there was no doubt it was the longest still in existence. That assessment was also 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.

Looking like a pencil-thin shoot of bamboo, the dull-green insect measures about 56 cm, if its twig-like legs are counted. Its body length is 35.7 cm, beating the previous record held by Phobaeticus kirbyi, also from Borneo, by about 2.5 centimetres.

Stick bugs have some of the animal kingdom's cleverest camouflage. Although some use noxious sprays or prickly spines to deter their predators, generally the bugs assume the shape of sticks and leaves to avoid drawing attention.

"Their main defence is basically hanging around, looking like a twig," Brock said. "It will even sway in the wind."