A Stick Insect. A Tree Lobster. Whatever You Call It, It’s Not Extinct.

By Joanna Klein

The tree lobster, one of the rarest insects on Earth, has lived a rather twisted life story.

Scientifically known as Dryococelus australis, this six-inch-long stick bug with a lobster-esque exoskeleton once occupied Lord Howe Island in the Tasman Sea, between Australia and New Zealand.

In 1918, rats escaping a capsized steamship swam ashore. The tree lobsters became rat chow. Two years later, all tree lobsters seemed to have vanished, and by 1960 they were declared extinct.

But in the latest chapter for what has also been called the Lord Howe stick insect, scientists compared the genomes of living stick bugs from a small island nearby to those of museum specimens, revealing that they are indeed the same species. The resulting paper, published Thursday in Current Biology, resolves an identity question that has impeded conservation efforts for years, and sets the scale to effectively resurrect the insect.

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