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Australian Wildlife

  Lord Howe Island Stick Insect (Dryococelus australis)





Lord Howe Island Stick Insect | Dryococelus australis photo
Lord Howe Island stick insect (Dryococelus australis) at Melbourne Museum.

Image by Peter Halasz - Some rights reserved.    (view image details)



INSECT FACTS

Identification
The Lord Howe Island Phasmid is a large flightless stick insect with a stout body. Males have narrower abdomen, longer and thicker antennae, and enlarged spiny hindlegs. Females have broader abdomen with ovipositor. Adult insects are dark brown with a cream stripe along the abdomen. Adults are nocturnal. Juveniles are bright green and diurnal. Eggs are light brown with ridged pattern. Melbourne Zoo has a captive breeding program with several dozen breeding adults with the aim of reintroducing the phasmid onto Lord Howe Island.

Other Names
Land Lobster

Size
body length: females to 12cm, males to 10.6cm.

Habitat
On Lord Howe Island, the insect used to inhabit forested areas. On Balls Pyramid there are no trees and all phasmids have been found on Melaleuca howeana, the only shrub on the island. The insects shelter in cavities formed amongst plant debris.

Food
Insects from Balls Pyramid have been seen feeding on leaf tips of Melaleuca howeana. Adults feed at night.

Breeding
From observations from the captive breeding program at Melbourne Zoo, it appears that the Lord Howe Island Phasmid buries its eggs in the soil rather than letting them drop to the ground like other phasmids. From observations at Balls Pyramid and historical accounts of the Lord Howe Island Phasmid, females are far more numerous than males, suggesting that the insect is capable of parthenogenesis, where unfertilised eggs hatch into females (this is a common process in phasmids).

Range
The Lord Howe Island Phasmid is endemic to the Lord Howe Island Group. The Lord Howe Island Phasmid is currently known from only one location on Balls Pyramid in the Lord How Island Group. It used to be abundant on Lord Howe Island but disappeared after the introduction of Black Rats in 1918. It is now extinct on the main island. In the 1960s, three dead Lord Howe Island Phasmids were found on the rat-free Balls Pyramid, a volcanic island 23km south east of Lord Howe Island. In 2001, live insects were found.

Conservation Status
Listed as Critically Endangered on the IUCN Red List of Threatened Species

Classification
Class:Insecta
Order:Phasmatodea
Family:Phasmatidae
Genus:Dryococelus
Species:australis
Common Name:Lord Howe Island Stick Insect