Pyramid of Life

Friday March 20, 2015 Written by Ronan

If you were around seven million years ago, you might have noticed the emergence of this striking, ethereal island. Known as Ball’s Pyramid, it towers five hundred metres above the sea near Lord Howe Island in Australia, and is the product of a violent sea volcano eruption.

It’s also the setting of an incredible story of survival of a rather strange, incredibly large creature, the Lord Howe Island stick insect. Referred to as ‘tree lobster’ by earlier explorers, it was thought to have become extinct in 1920, when introduced rats tore through the population like bankers at a fancy New York restaurant.

Amazingly, decades of rumours of the insect’s continued existence on the inhospitable Ball’s Pyramid were recently confirmed, after two climbers found a few residents clustered under an equally hardy bush near the summit at night. No one is sure how they got there (or how it surived on next-to-nothing), but a Melbourne Zoo breeding program is hoping to repopulate the island with the critters.

However, the slightly freakish insect has an image problem (describing them as ‘stick-like’ is probably being kind), and some Lord Howe residents aren’t keen to see them return. It’s a sticky situation, but given its past, we’re confident this survivor will endure its latest challenge.

Bottom image: Nick Carlile, who helped discover the Lord Howe Island phasmid. Zoos Victoria.