But that's not the story; the story is about how, through whatever means, they landed on a remote island in the pacific right out of king kong, were
almost decimated by rats which were accidentally introduced, and survived:
They call it "Ball's Pyramid." It's what's left of an old volcano that emerged from the sea about 7 million years ago. A British naval officer
named Ball was the first European to see it in 1788. It sits off Australia, in the South Pacific. It is extremely narrow, 1,844 feet high, and it sits
What's more, for years this place had a secret. At 225 feet above sea level, hanging on the rock surface, there is a small, spindly little bush, and
under that bush, a few years ago, two climbers, working in the dark, found something totally improbable hiding in the soil below. How it got there, we
still don't know.
In 1918 a ship wrecked on the island and the rats got out and scientists though ate ate all the insects:
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
But they weren't all killed... a small colony survived on a cragged cliff around one small bush:
They crawled up the vertical rock face to about 500 feet, where they found a few crickets, nothing special. But on their way down, on a
precarious, unstable rock surface, they saw a single melaleuca bush peeping out of a crack and, underneath, what looked like fresh droppings of some
Where, they wondered, did that poop come from?
The only thing to do was to go back up after dark, with flashlights and cameras, to see if the pooper would be out taking a nighttime walk. Nick
Carlile and a local ranger, Dean Hiscox, agreed to make the climb. And with flashlights, they scaled the wall till they reached the plant, and there,
spread out on the bushy surface, were two enormous, shiny, black-looking bodies. And below those two, slithering into the muck, were more, and more
... 24 in all. All gathered near this one plant.
Scientist are finding old "died out species" all the time - you would think they would get smart. "Nature finds a way," to quote one of my favorite
lines from Michael Crichton (one of my favorite authors). And particularly applicable as this is something right out of one of his books:
They were alive and, to Nick Carlile's eye, enormous. Looking at them, he said, "It felt like stepping back into the Jurassic age, when insects
ruled the world."
They were Dryococelus australis. A search the next morning, and two years later, concluded these are the only ones on Ball's Pyramid, the last ones.
They live there, and, as best we know, nowhere else.
How they got there is a mystery. Maybe they hitchhiked on birds, or traveled with fishermen, and how they survived for so long on just a single patch
of plants, nobody knows either. The important thing, the scientists thought, was to get a few of these insects protected and into a breeding
And they did, they took 4 (two died) and have a thriving population now.
...they were named "Adam" and "Eve," taken to the Melbourne Zoo and placed with Patrick Honan, of the zoo's invertebrate conservation breeding
When Jane Goodall visited in 2008, Patrick showed her rows and rows of incubating eggs: 11,376 at that time, with about 700 adults in the captive
population. Lord Howe Island walking sticks seem to pair off — an unusual insect behavior — and Goodall says Patrick "showed me photos of how they
sleep at night, in pairs, the male with three of his legs protectively over the female beside him."
These creatures are amazing. Here is a picture of them at birth, they seem impossibly big for the small egg from which they hatch. Every day I'm
amazed at the beauty and awesomeness of nature:
Original Vimeo video: link and youtube reproduction:
Here are some more videos on this interesting insect:
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