Australia's big land lobster insect isn't extinct after all

Australia's big and arguably ugly Lord Howe Island stick bug isn't extinct after all, researchers have revealed. The insect, which was found on the Australian island, was thought extinct following a shipwreck that happened in the early 1900s. A recent study, though, used DNA to confirm that bugs found on a volcanic outcrop are indeed this long-lost insect.

The Lord Howe Island insect looks more like a slim land-lobster than an actual stick, but no matter what it's called, it's big and it still exists. The determination was made using specimens from a museum and comparing their DNA to DNA belonging to insects found on the island's Ball's Pyramid. The present-day insects are said to look similar to the older specimens.

As the image above shows, this insect can grow to large sizes, at least relative to the average insect you'll come across. The stick bug can measure up to 6-inches in length, and it has a somewhat tubular look with a tapered, segmented body. Its appearance has resulted in some calling it a 'land lobster.' Unlike the adult insects, the young offspring have a bright green color.

If you were out looking for the stick insect, you'd have a hard time spotting it — researchers say it mostly comes out at night to feast on green shrubbery, disappearing back into the trees during the day to slumber and hide.

Researchers first became alerted to the bug's possible continued existence back in 2001 when a ranger spotted one. Since then, the Melbourne Zoo has started captive breeding programs to help the population flourish. Eliminating an invasive rat presence on the island may allow the population to rebound on its own in the future.

SOURCE: Reuters