Six-legged giant not extinct, found hiding on remote island.

NPR describes the joy of explorers finding “extinct” tree lobsters – the world’s largest known stick insects, once native only to Australia’s Lord Howe Island – alive and well on a nearby spike of rock called Ball’s Pyramid:

Then one day in 1918, a supply ship, the S.S. Makambo from Britain, ran aground at Lord Howe Island and had to be evacuated. One passenger drowned. The rest were put ashore. It took nine days to repair the Makambo, and during that time, some black rats managed to get from the ship to the island where they instantly discovered a delicious new rat food: giant stick insects. Two years later, the rats were everywhere and the tree lobsters were gone.

Totally gone. After 1920, there wasn’t a single sighting. By 1960, the Lord Howe stick insect, Dryococelus australis, was presumed extinct.

Fast forward to 2001 when two Australian scientists, David Priddel and Nicholas Carlile, with two assistants, decided to take a closer look. From the water, they’d seen a few patches of vegetation that just might support walking sticks. So, they boated over, (“Swimming would have been much easier,” Carlile said, “but there are too many sharks.”), they crawled up the vertical rock face to about 500 feet, where they found a few crickets, nothing special. But on their way down, on a precarious, unstable rock surface, they saw a single melaleuca bush peeping out of a crack, and underneath what looked like fresh dropping of some large insect.

Where, they wondered, did that poop come from?

The only thing to do was to go back up after dark, with flashlights and cameras, to see if the pooper would be out taking a nighttime walk.

The story gets even better from there. They found 24 of them. Then, a couple years later, a rockfall hit that melaleuca tree. Only two insects survived – Adam and Eve. They took them back to a zoo, hand-feeding Eve a mixture of nectar and calcium until she was able to lay 30 eggs.

And now, they’re trying to figure out what to do with them… since the rats are still rampant on Lord Howe.