The Lord Howe stick insect is officially back from the dead

Lord Howe stick insects
Although darker than those found on Lord Howe Island, these stick insects, from nearby Ball’s Pyramid, are the same species.

It’s a rare triumph when a species comes back from the dead. A new genetic analysis has officially established what many entomologists and conservation biologists hoped was true: The Lord Howe stick insect (Dryococelus australis) lives.

Nicknamed “tree lobsters,” the dark-brown crawlers are nocturnal, flightless creatures that can grow up to 15 centimeters long. They feed on tea trees, which are dense shrubs found on Lord Howe Island in New South Wales, Australia. Black rats, introduced to the island in the 1920s, wiped out the walking sticks. Or so researchers thought.

In 2001, scientists climbing Ball’s Pyramid, a treacherous rocky outcrop southeast of Lord Howe Island, discovered three stick insects feeding on a lone bush. The following year, researchers spotted 24 more. The insects looked eerily similar to the Lord Howe insects, but some physical differences between the new finds and museum specimens called for genetic…

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