A long-lost cockroach species considered extinct for 80 years has been found thriving at the foot of a single banyan tree.
The Lord Howe Island Wood-feeding cockroach, last spotted in the 1930s, has been rediscovered by a University of Sydney student.
“For the first 10 seconds or so, I thought ‘No, it can’t be,'” said Maxim Adams. “I mean, I lifted the first rock under this huge banyan tree, and there it was.”
“Families” of the long-lost cockroach were found “all under this one banyan” said Nicholas Carlile, a scientist with the New South Wales Department of Planning and Environment.
“In fact, Maxim and Nathan (Lo, Adams’ professor) were there for the rest of the week, looked under every other banyan in North Bay, but didn’t find anything.”
THe species used to be widespread, but was wiped out after the introduction of rats at the end of World War I.
“The survival is great news, as it has been more than 80 years since it was last seen,” said Lord Howe Island board chair Atticus Fleming.
“Lord Howe Island really is a spectacular place, it’s older than the Galápagos islands and is home to 1600 native invertebrate species, half of which are found nowhere else in the world.
“These cockroaches are almost like our very own version of Darwin’s finches, separated on little islands over thousands or millions of years developing their own unique genetics.”
There were plans to introduce similar cockroaches to Lord Howe Island, from related populations on nearby islands.
“Now they don’t have to,” the University of Sydney said in a statement.
“They may not be cute and cuddly, but the cockroaches are cornerstones of maintaining a healthy ecosystem on the island, acting as important nutrient recyclers, important in speeding the breakdown of logs and as a food source for other species.”