Tree lobster thought extinct for 80 years found alive on tiny island

first_imgThe growing population of the human race is putting ever increasing pressure on the world’s resources. Be that land, raw materials, and wildlife. Populations of different species are diminishing as we move in and take over their natural environments. We’ve caused the extinction of some species, know of other species on the brink of extinction, and probably caused some unknown organisms to disappear before we even discovered them.While losing certain forms of life forever from our world is quite a depressing thought, scientists have recently discovered a stick insect we thought was extinct is in fact still alive and well. It is called the Dryococelus australis, but is better known as the “tree lobster” due to its size (around 12cm in length). It was, and now is again, the heaviest flightless stick insect in the world. The tree lobster was thought to have been wiped out from its natural habitat of Lord Howe Island, situated in the South Pacific off Australia. That extinction occurred some 80 years ago when we introduced black rats to the island. They proceeded to eat all the tree lobsters and wipe them out.However, a tiny island called Ball’s Pyramid is located 13 miles away from Lord Howe Island and was found to house a small colony of the insects. Just 24 in fact. That’s the entire population in the world. Scientists set about attempting to breed them in captivity to bolster numbers by removing just four (two male/female pairs) from the tiny island. Two died soon after, and the female from the remaining pair almost did, too. But the quick thinking of Melbourne Zoo invertebrate conservation breeding group biologist Patrick Honan saved her life as he formulated a calcium nectar mix she could survive on.Patrick’s life-saving insect food, combined with an intensive breeding program, means those original 24 tree lobsters on Ball’s Pyramid now have over 700 grandchildren living in captivity. The next problem to overcome is how to reintroduce them to Lord Howe Island. Two problems need to be overcome before the insects can be released back into the wild. The first is depleting the rat population so they don’t all get eaten again. The second is convincing people that 12cm-long stick insects walking around is something they really should be encouraging.One thing that will remain a mystery is how on earth the stick insect managed to travel to an island 13 miles away from its home and survive. Even if it was a lucky break of a bird carrying some eggs there, they were found under a single bush 225 feet up on a surface prone to regular rock slides.Read more at nprlast_img

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