Student spots elusive critter on forest floor — one that hadn’t been seen in 80 years
University of Sydney student Maxim Adams was scouring the leafy floor of Australia’s Lord Howe Island in July when he turned over a rock and found himself staring at an unbelievable sight.
“No,” Adams thought to himself. “It can’t be.”
Nestled under the rock and frantically scrambling back to safety was a wingless wood-eating cockroach — an animal that hasn’t been seen since the 1930s, the New South Wales Department of Planning and Environment reported in a news release.
While the find may cause the average person to reel, it was a jaw-dropping discovery for Adams, a student of The University of Sydney’s School of Life and Environmental Sciences, and his professor Nathan Lo.
The insect was thought to be extinct for more than 80 years, according to a release from The University of Sydney.
“I lifted the first rock under this huge banyan tree, and there it was,” Adams said in the release.
Adams, Lo and DPE senior scientist Nicholas Carlile found “families” of the roaches under the banyan tree. After a week of searching the area, the single banyan tree seemed to be the only place the roaches were found, the university release said.
Rats escaped onto Lord Howe Island in 1918 and caused a “rapid collapse of a suite of unique fauna and the loss of many invertebrate species,” according to the New South Wales DPE release. One of those species was believed to have been wingless wood-eating cockroaches.
“The survival is great news, as it has been more than 80 years since it was last seen,” Lord Howe Island Board Chair Atticus Fleming said in the university release. “Lord Howe Island really is a spectacular place, it’s older than the Galápagos islands and is home to 1,600 native invertebrate species, half of which are found nowhere else in the world.”
Eight cockroaches were taken back to the University of Sydney for further research with permission from authorities, the DPE said in its release.
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