Dryococelus australis – Rarest Giant Insect On Earth

Dryococelus australis The Extinct Insect Which Came Back To Life

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Have a look of the rarest insect in the world… It has been hidden for 80 years, and its name is Dryococelus australis, or the Land Lobster. Despite the fact that it was considered completely extinct, a team of scientists discovered that this rare insect is still alive on Lord Howe Island.
This phenomenon is known as the Lazarus effect, and even though it’s been rediscovered, the gigantic insect is still the rarest one on Earth. Only 24 specimens have been discovered, and by the looks of things, it may go back to its extinct status if extreme measures aren’t taken soon.

Dryococelus australis has been rediscovered on this remote island named Ball’s Pyramid, which is a remnant of a shield volcano that formed about 7 million years ago. It is 562 meters tall and 1,100 meters (3,600 ft) in length, and it’s a wonder that the insect was discovered in such a small habitat.

Balls Pyramid1

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The eight-legged giant insect had literally disappeared off the face of the Earth back in 1920 from their very own habitat in the Lord Howe Island. This rare insect was endemic to that area (they only lived in that area). But why do you think they disappeared? Well, as usual, humans had something to do with it.

In 1916 people knew that on Lord Howe Island there lived a humongous insect, one as big as the human hand… it looked like a stick which gave it a great advantage of camouflaging as a piece of wood on any tree. The insect was so huge that the locals dubbed it “land lobster” or “tree lobster”. The giant bug was 12 centimeters long and the heaviest (but flightless) stick insect in the world.

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There was a time when local fishermen used to hang them on their hooks and use them as bait in order to catch big fish. So if there were so many specimens that people could use them as bait, what on Earth went wrong?

One dark and gloomy day in 1918 a cargo ship from Great Britain washed ashore on Lord Howe Island and it had to be completely evacuated in order for the repair team to fix the ship. Along with the eviction of human, the rodents on board also found their way on to the island.

All aboard!

All aboard

When the boat was fixed the people got back on board, unaware of the disaster they had caused. The rats settled in the island and found a great source of proteins in the form of the gigantic land lobsters (thinking like Bear Grylls before it was cool). In just two years, the island was full of rats who had practically devoured the entire colony of insects.

By 1920, no one had seen the insect anywhere on the island, and in 1960 it was already considered extinct… but rumor had it that some adventurous rock climbers had spotted the remains of some stick insects which seemed recently dead. Now the problem with this rumor is the fact that the “extinct” insect is a nocturnal being, and no one was brave enough to venture on to the rocks at night.

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The brave expedition wasn’t until 2001 when a team of scientists who dared to climb the 500 feet rock during the night with flashlights and cameras. Luckily, their efforts were not in vain, they discovered 24 specimens of one of the largest insect in the world. Their exact words were:

“It felt like stepping back into the Jurassic age, when insects ruled the world.”

After this amazing discovery was made, the it took the officials two years to make up their minds as to what should be done to preserve this species. Eventually, they decided to take just four insects in an attempt to breed them.

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One pair died, but the other two were named Adam and Eve, and were handed to the Melbourne Zoo and placed with Patrick Honan, who managed to successfully breed the insects, hence creating a new population of Dryococelus australis.

They even made a video of the amazing hatching of baby insects. It seems that in this case, were able to repair a mistake of our ancestors, hopefully, we will realize that we have many more endangered animals living on Earth, and if we don’t act now, our kids might be reading about them in books and atlases. Have a look below to see how these amazing insects hatch from their eggs.

Lord Howe Island Stick Insect hatching from Zoos Victoria on Vimeo.

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