Thursday, 1 January 2015

How tree lobsters survived extinction on Ball’s Pyramid

December 31, 2014

Chuck Bednar for – Your Universe Online

Ian Malcolm was (as always) right again: Life found a way. This time, on Balls Pyramid off the coast of Australia with a species called Dryococelus australis.

Odds are you’ve never heard of D. australis (or, the tree lobster), but this species of stick insect has one of the most unique and interesting stories ever produced by the animal kingdom.

Lord Howe Island phasmid. (Credit: Granitethighs/Wikimedia Commons)

According to The Chive, the tree lobster once resided on Lord Howe Island in the Tasmanian Sea. However, in 1918, rats escaped from a cargo ship in the area, spreading all across the island and dining on the nearly six-inch long insects. By 1930, they were believed extinct.

In 1964, a man climbing nearby Ball’s Pyramid, a remnant of a shield volcano and caldera, found a dead tree lobster, but was unable to discover any living specimens. It wasn’t until decades later live ones were discovered, with 24 of them found together on a single Melaleuca shrub. No one knows how they got there, or how they were able to survive.

In fact, as the Daily Mail reported back in 2012, the creatures were living 500 feet above the South Pacific Ocean, and the plant that they called home was the only one that had survived on Ball’s Pyramid. Four of them were removed from the volcano remnant and were used to breed thousands more in order to ensure that species, once thought extinct, would be able to survive.

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