We have great news for the environment, as a species long regarded as extinct has come back from the dead. The species in question is the Lord Howe Island stick insect, whose traces have been found again in a surprising place. Researchers thought rats ate them off, but the insect made them a pleasant surprise and returned.
The Lord Howe Island stick insect was thought to be extinct
Hundreds of years ago, cargo ships brought all kinds of rodents on the Lord Howe Island, the home of the vulnerable stick insect. There, the rodents stumbled upon these insects, which made a great food source, and ate so many that scientists were convinced they disappeared off the face of Earth.
This creepy stick insect used to be found only in the New South Wales region in Australia. The animal is as big as a human’s hand, has six legs, and lives in trees, attracting the nickname of tree lobster. In its infancy, it’s colored in green but, as it gets older, it turns brown.
The insect returned from the dead
Around 1920, scientists declared the insect extinct. About 80 years later, as a team of scientists was exploring a volcanic rock in the Pacific called Ball’s Pyramid, they stumbled upon a few specimens which weirdly resembled the stick insect. Then, researchers assumed they might have ran away from rats, and found shelter on this remote region.
Therefore, they changed the status of the insect to critically endangered, and caught a few specimens to start breeding programs with. However, the newly resulted animals didn’t look identical to the original Lord Howe Island stick insects.
This is why they developed a study, published in the journal Current Biology, where they compared DNA samples from the new specimens with those of the old insects preserved in museums. The verdict was positive, the two species are one and the same. Now, conservationists and environmental researchers hope they will be able to reintroduce the species on its native island.
Image Source: Wikimedia Commons