An Insect Thought To Be Extinct Has Recently Been Rediscovered

Back in 2003 an insect that nobody had ever seen before was discovered on an island. The island is named Ball’s Pyramid, and it is located three hundred and seventy five miles off of the Australian coast. The strange looking insect was classified as a stick insect after it was found by scientists who were climbing a tall mountain located on the island. At the time, researchers believed that the stick insect could have been related to the Lord Howe Island stick insect. However, the Lord Howe Island stick insect was considered extinct. The new insect closely resembled the Lord Howe Island stick insect, but researchers were not sure if what they had found was, in fact, the same insect. Luckily, before the Lord Howe Island stick insect became extinct in 1918, researchers had managed to catch and preserve some specimens over a century ago. Unfortunately, these old specimens were too decayed for proper DNA analysis. However, technology has recently advanced to the point where the DNA of the decayed stick insects can be analyzed. It turns out that the insect discovered on Ball’s Pyramid in 2003 is the very same species of stick insect that had been considered extinct on Lord Howe Island.

Back in 1918, a ship had crashed into Lord Howe Island. The ship was carrying rats. These rats ate all of the native Lord Howe island stick insects. Until now, researchers assumed that these unique insects only existed on Lord Howe island. The stick insects that were discovered in 2003 had stockier bodies, so researchers did not know if they were also Lord Howe island stick insects. DNA analysis has confirmed that the Lord Howe island stick insects did somehow manage to arrive on a Ball’s Pyramid, which is several miles away. Researchers are not sure how the Lord Howe Island stick insects reached another island, or why their bodies appear to be slightly different, but the insects are not extinct after all.

Do you believe that determining what makes a species different from another species is still an inexact science?






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