Welcome Back, Tree Lobsters


Fri, Mar 2nd, 2012 20:00 by capnasty NEWS

Once thought to be exctint from their native land, Lord Howe Island, the Dryococelus australis, a gigantic stick insect European settlers called tree lobster, has actually been found alive and well -- although in very small numbers -- living under a single bush off the last remaining shard of a 7 million year old volcano in the Tasman sea called Ball's Pyramid. I'm not making this up.

Two of the insects have since been brought into captivity to the Melbourne Zoo and placed with Patrick Honan, of the zoo's invertebrate conservation breeding group where they have been successfully been brought to significant numbers. The video below is of one of the eggs hatching and wait 'till you see how big these bugs grow.

From the article on NPR:

On Lord Howe, there used to be an insect, famous for being big. It's a stick insect, a critter that masquerades as a piece of wood, and the Lord Howe Island version was so large -- as big as a human hand -- that the Europeans labeled it a "tree lobster" because of its size and hard, lobsterlike exoskeleton. It was 12 centimeters long and the heaviest flightless stick insect in the world. Local fishermen used to put them on fishing hooks and use them as bait.

Then one day in 1918, a supply ship, the S.S. Makambo from Britain, ran aground at Lord Howe Island and had to be evacuated. One passenger drowned. The rest were put ashore. It took nine days to repair the Makambo, and during that time, some black rats managed to get from the ship to the island, where they instantly discovered a delicious new rat food: giant stick insects. Two years later, the rats were everywhere and the tree lobsters were gone.

Totally gone. After 1920, there wasn't a single sighting. By 1960, the Lord Howe stick insect, Dryococelus australis, was presumed extinct.

There was a rumor, though.

Some climbers scaling Ball's Pyramid in the 1960s said they'd seen a few stick insect corpses lying on the rocks that looked "recently dead." But the species is nocturnal, and nobody wanted to scale the spire hunting for bugs in the dark.



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