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Where did that poop come from?
February 29, 2012 8:38 AM   Subscribe

Six-Legged Giant Finds Secret Hideaway, Hides for 80 Years
posted by empath (134 comments total) 91 users marked this as a favorite

 
Well, I was against extinguishing species until I saw that.
posted by michaelh at 8:44 AM on February 29, 2012 [7 favorites]


However, the scientists didn't find Dr. Evil's secret underground lair.

He won't forgive them for pinching four of his pets, though.
posted by Skeptic at 8:45 AM on February 29, 2012 [2 favorites]


Mmblaaaaaaaaaggggghhhhhgetitoffgetitoffgetitoff
posted by dabug at 8:46 AM on February 29, 2012 [14 favorites]


Nothing can possibli go wrong.
posted by eugenen at 8:47 AM on February 29, 2012 [7 favorites]


While I enjoyed the video of the face-hugger emerging from its pod, I wonder if there are more photos of the area where this was rediscovered. There are probably some interesting miniature landscapes on that tiny island.
posted by Burhanistan at 8:47 AM on February 29, 2012


Screw your vertebrate chauvinism, this is so cool. I can't even get over how ridiculously fake that island looks.
posted by theodolite at 8:48 AM on February 29, 2012 [31 favorites]


Unusual != fake
posted by The Thnikkaman at 8:49 AM on February 29, 2012


I am so glad they did this it's truly a marvel of modern science, and hopefully they can use some of that same science to build glass thick enough to separate me from these freakish tree lobsters for the rest of time.
posted by joinks at 8:49 AM on February 29, 2012 [20 favorites]


Wow, that looks delicious.
posted by griphus at 8:52 AM on February 29, 2012 [5 favorites]


"Tree lobster", i just love the name. Plus, these are cute, you people are nuts. :)
posted by usagizero at 8:53 AM on February 29, 2012 [8 favorites]


Man there are gross-ass huge bugs everywhere.
posted by 2bucksplus at 8:53 AM on February 29, 2012


that was totally awesome.
posted by xbonesgt at 8:55 AM on February 29, 2012


I for one welcome our new Giant Insect Overlords!
posted by Katjusa Roquette at 8:55 AM on February 29, 2012 [2 favorites]


If you think those are gross, take a look at the Coconut Crab. If you dare.
posted by jquinby at 8:56 AM on February 29, 2012 [7 favorites]


When the Mayans take out our infrastructure in 6 months, I'm swimming there and living amongst the tree lobsters.
posted by teekat at 8:56 AM on February 29, 2012 [1 favorite]


err...kayaking
posted by teekat at 8:56 AM on February 29, 2012 [5 favorites]


I'm not seeing the disgust here, they look like total sweethearts. I am in favor of their continued existence, though I wouldn't want to have to wrestle with the moral calculus involved in deciding whether to undertake the extermination of probably millions of rats so as to ensure their repatriation.
posted by invitapriore at 8:57 AM on February 29, 2012 [2 favorites]


The real star appears to be the zoo entomologist who cured their last allowed breeding female. I wish the article had addressed on what he based his hunch that she needed calcium. Was it as simple as "with a big exoskeleton like that, she must need tons of calcium"? The continued existence of the species is thanks to his gamble; I'd like to hear more from him!
posted by gilrain at 8:57 AM on February 29, 2012 [41 favorites]


invitapriore: moral calculus involved in deciding whether to undertake the extermination of probably millions of rats so as to ensure their repatriation

Although I agree that it'd a grisly job to be in charge of the decision, I doubt the moral calculus is unclear on a preservationist level.
posted by gilrain at 8:59 AM on February 29, 2012 [2 favorites]


> I'm not seeing the disgust here

Yeah, unless it has hidden fangs underneath its tiny mandibles, these things are hardly threatening. As a bonus, they appear to have soft and hard shelled seasons like crabs!
posted by Burhanistan at 9:00 AM on February 29, 2012 [1 favorite]


AIGH!

{looks again}

AIIGGGHHH!!!
posted by Rarebit Fiend at 9:00 AM on February 29, 2012 [2 favorites]


Where, they wondered, did that poop come from?

I'm guessing from something's rear end.

Hey! I was right!
posted by owtytrof at 9:01 AM on February 29, 2012 [5 favorites]


Nope.
posted by PenDevil at 9:02 AM on February 29, 2012


Unattractive beasties are still worth saving. Tree lobsters, Ganges River dolphins, aye ayes, and all the other endangered ugly things deserve the same consideration as fluffy Siberian tigers and friends.
posted by zamboni at 9:03 AM on February 29, 2012 [20 favorites]


Although I agree that it'd a grisly job to be in charge of the decision, I doubt the moral calculus is unclear on a preservationist level.

Yeah, I agree. I think the unknown quantity here is what the value of preserving this species is and what that value is derived from. My gut says that getting rid of a bunch of rats to preserve the walking stick is totally worth it, but I'm wondering how to justify that.
posted by invitapriore at 9:04 AM on February 29, 2012


Raise your own!
Here's how:
Lord Howe Island Stick Insect Husbandry Manual (.pdf)
posted by Floydd at 9:07 AM on February 29, 2012 [1 favorite]


N
O
P
E
posted by zombieflanders at 9:07 AM on February 29, 2012 [2 favorites]


If you think those are gross, take a look at the Coconut Crab. If you dare.

No. Don't. Just don't.

(I was sure the Coconut Crab was going to be the star of this story, but thankfully not)

Also: Because they can CRUSH coconuts, that's why!
posted by ShutterBun at 9:08 AM on February 29, 2012 [1 favorite]


We can build them a shantytown in South Africa. That'll work, right?
posted by Faint of Butt at 9:11 AM on February 29, 2012 [47 favorites]


As long as I never have to go there and see them in person, and as long as they never establish breeding colonies anywhere but this remote, sheer-cliff-faced-island-set-in-shark-infested-waters, I am totally in favor of saving them from extinction.

As a kid, I wanted to be an entomologist. I grew out of it.
posted by rtha at 9:12 AM on February 29, 2012


The plan was to take one pair and give it a man who was very familiar with mainland walking stick insects, a private breeder living in Sydney.

Surely giving a man to these beasts is a tad extreme? I mean, I can understand the desire to placate them, but won't they just demand more people when they've finished this one?
posted by yoink at 9:13 AM on February 29, 2012 [45 favorites]


My gut says that getting rid of a bunch of rats to preserve the walking stick is totally worth it, but I'm wondering how to justify that.

Rats are an invasive species that routinely destroy whatever ecosystem they're introduced to. Especially island ecosystems. Nothing outcompetes rats in their incredibly broad niche, and they're major vectors for all kinds of diseases. If there were a way to do it, I doubt there's a biologist alive who wouldn't be in favor of driving them all the way back to Eurasia.
posted by cmoj at 9:13 AM on February 29, 2012 [9 favorites]


What happens next? The story is simple: A bunch of black rats almost wiped out a bunch of gigantic bugs on a little island far, far away from most of us.

Now the bugs are back. And this time, they're angry. Don't miss: TREE MOBSTERS. The true story of how two giant insects, aided only by a caring scientist and a thimbleful of calcium, returned to their homeland and kicked rat ass.
posted by The Bellman at 9:14 AM on February 29, 2012 [9 favorites]


I felt good at first that they are isolated on this tiny barren island surrounded by sharks, but then I got to the point of the article that says they managed to get there from another nearby tiny barren island surrounded by sharks and now I fear them more than the sharks themselves.
posted by elizardbits at 9:16 AM on February 29, 2012 [8 favorites]


in conclusion we should bomb that island.
posted by elizardbits at 9:16 AM on February 29, 2012 [3 favorites]


"I'm still here. Don't let me go."

Exactly.
posted by Kevin Street at 9:17 AM on February 29, 2012 [2 favorites]


All you guys that are making jokes about how scary they are are crazy. From the article:

Howe Island walking sticks seem to pair off — an unusual insect behavior — and Goodall says Patrick "showed me photos of how they sleep at night, in pairs, the male with three of his legs protectively over the female beside him."

They spoon! Come on, that's adorable!
posted by infinitywaltz at 9:17 AM on February 29, 2012 [42 favorites]


they sleep at night, in pairs, the male with three of his legs protectively over the female beside him
Aww, spooning bugs. Squee!
posted by scruss at 9:18 AM on February 29, 2012 [1 favorite]


Rat Island, about island rat extermination campaigns. Great fun.
posted by stbalbach at 9:23 AM on February 29, 2012


According to this (uncited) travelogue, Ball's Pyramid only has 10-20 thousand years left before erosion takes it down below the water. If we leave these stick insects alone, that might just be enough time for them to evolve large wings to enable them to fly to the mainland!
posted by Burhanistan at 9:23 AM on February 29, 2012 [2 favorites]


Yep, I'm going to echo the above adorable sentiment - COME ON THEY SPOON!
posted by librarianamy at 9:24 AM on February 29, 2012 [1 favorite]


how they sleep at night, in pairs, the male with three of his legs protectively over the female beside him.

On preview, someone two people already quoted this, but it's worth repeating. I love this story! Thank you for a happy story! How on earth do 24 survive, and on one bush? I can't even imagine. Is 24 the maximum capacity for that bush? Do they eat the rest, or push them off, or maybe fewer eggs hatch? And yes, the guy (Patrick Honan) that brilliantly saved the last female they had... so great! I believe I am all for that whole "remove" the rats thing.

Seems like some rich eccentric might be willing to fund this repatriation? I would, if I was a rich eccentric.
posted by Glinn at 9:24 AM on February 29, 2012 [5 favorites]


in conclusion we should bomb that island take off and nuke the site from orbit.
posted by elizardbits at 12:16 PM on February 29 [+] [!]


It's the only way to be sure.
posted by The Bellman at 9:25 AM on February 29, 2012 [2 favorites]


One more vote for "cute", here. As insects go, they're really kind of adorable, and having a population possibly rebound after dwindling to 24 living off of a single bush on a remote island somewhere is an amazing story.
posted by wanderingmind at 9:27 AM on February 29, 2012 [3 favorites]


Okay, hear me out. Let's say they are delicious. Wait, wait, wait! Okay, they are delicious when steamed, you know, like a spiny lobster or pee shrimp. And we can capture them and breed them on farms here in the U.S.! Can't you just imagine having these delicious bugs, brought back from the brink of extinction, crawling all over the U.S.? Thanks for hearing me out.
posted by jabberjaw at 9:28 AM on February 29, 2012 [8 favorites]


That's not spooning. If anything, it's forking.
posted by ShutterBun at 9:28 AM on February 29, 2012 [19 favorites]


If you think those are gross, take a look at the Coconut Crab. If you dare.

I've heard that the coconut crab, while technically edible, tastes pretty foul. This makes me SO SAD because those pictures make me SO HUNGRY.
posted by FatherDagon at 9:30 AM on February 29, 2012 [2 favorites]


I admit I didn't expect the overwhelming "Ew!" vibe in the comments here.

How can you read the article's last line and not be a little moved?

Anyway, I'm incorporating this little story into my Mass Effect narrative, and nobody can stop me.
posted by pts at 9:31 AM on February 29, 2012 [1 favorite]


Anyway, I'm incorporating this little story into my Mass Effect narrative, and nobody can stop me.

Worst. Slash-fiction. Evar.
posted by The Bellman at 9:35 AM on February 29, 2012 [3 favorites]


Another vote for "Those aren't disgusting, they're cool as hell".
posted by Decani at 9:37 AM on February 29, 2012 [1 favorite]


Somebody really screwed up reading the specs for a half-pony/half-monkey. Not pleased.
posted by maudlin at 9:38 AM on February 29, 2012 [4 favorites]


The Cook Islands has gone through something similar with the Kakerori (Rarotonga flycatcher), a native bird that was almost wiped out by the introduction of rats. They've been fairly successful in restoring the population (when I was there, I took a guided hike through the conservation area and was thrilled that we got to see the birds); the population was at 29 in 1989 and is at about 380 in 2011. They haven't exterminated the rats but do set out poison bait for them regularly.

So it is doable, and I think that any species we can bring back from the edge we pushed them to as a result of our tendency to introduce invasive species during our travels is something we have to do. Without regard for the relative cuteness or squickiness of said species.
posted by never used baby shoes at 9:40 AM on February 29, 2012


Fantastic story! Love this post! Thanks!
posted by jnnla at 9:40 AM on February 29, 2012


Great article.

I would be interested in knowing how the lack of genetic diversity in the new population will ultimately affect their long term viability.
posted by I Havent Killed Anybody Since 1984 at 9:40 AM on February 29, 2012


... and when will Krulwich have a podcast again? The blog is awesome, but there hasn't been a show since September.
posted by maudlin at 9:42 AM on February 29, 2012


::walks to microphone::
::taps it to check sound::

ahem!

BLAORRRGGAAAHHHRGLLLLLRAAAAAHHHHARGLEARGLE!!!!!
HELL NO!

::walks off::
posted by Splunge at 9:44 AM on February 29, 2012 [1 favorite]


A very cool story. I too want to know what made the entomologist suddenly decide on nectar and calcium. This article says that the unfertilized eggs all hatch as clones of the female insect.

The article by Jane Goodall that NPR links to doesn't have much more about the insects, but it does have an interesting bit about saving the Caspian horse (page 2).
posted by oneirodynia at 9:46 AM on February 29, 2012 [2 favorites]


Huh. I guess what with being an entomologist in an office full of entomologists and all, I just thought "cool!" Didn't occur to me that there would be any other response to this until I came in here.
posted by fimbulvetr at 9:54 AM on February 29, 2012


This is all calling to mind that Onion article of a woman who pulls her support for a conservation program because the animals being protected aren't cute.
posted by Bunny Ultramod at 9:54 AM on February 29, 2012 [2 favorites]


That hatching video had me all tensed up. My brain was screaming, "GO LITTLE DUDE! YOU CAN DO IT!" I was holding my breath through most of it. I swear I nearly started crying when it got its last leg free.
posted by Cat Pie Hurts at 9:57 AM on February 29, 2012 [9 favorites]


Unattractive beasties are still worth saving. Tree lobsters, Ganges River dolphins, aye ayes, and all the other endangered ugly things deserve the same consideration as fluffy Siberian tigers and friends.

I agree, in principle, but you should meet some of my friends first before making such broad assumptions.
posted by hal9k at 10:00 AM on February 29, 2012 [1 favorite]


> But the species is nocturnal, and nobody wanted to scale the spire hunting for bugs in the dark.

Really? Literally nobody? Well, I find that very hard to believe.
posted by The Card Cheat at 10:02 AM on February 29, 2012


Six-Legged Giant Finds Secret Hideaway, Hides for 80 Years

Double!
posted by scalefree at 10:04 AM on February 29, 2012


stbalbach: "Rat Island, about island rat extermination campaigns. Great fun."

As a mammal myself, I usually tend to sympathize with other mammals, but, in this case, I say let the extermination of black rats on Lord Howe Island commence. Put that project up on kickstarter, and I'll donate.

These giant stick fellas need our help in regaining their former home.
posted by InsertNiftyNameHere at 10:05 AM on February 29, 2012 [7 favorites]


I am off to short the Madagascar hissing cockroach futures market.
posted by localroger at 10:13 AM on February 29, 2012


scalefree: "Double!"

Yeah, I was hoping for another use of the "giantmechanicalmosquito" tag.

Anyways, this is really neat. You guys are crazy. Bugs are our friends!
posted by brundlefly at 10:14 AM on February 29, 2012


The good news is the decision to reintroduce the bugs is totally reversible by simply adding rats.
posted by chairface at 10:18 AM on February 29, 2012 [3 favorites]


I thought Shelob was done for at the end of the Third Age?!
posted by kenko at 10:22 AM on February 29, 2012


*Slowly rolls up nearest newspaper*
posted by chillmost at 10:35 AM on February 29, 2012 [4 favorites]


I'm pro-giant bug, so long as they keep their spindly little paws good off of me.
posted by thivaia at 10:37 AM on February 29, 2012 [2 favorites]


These bugs are cool. These scientists are bad-ass. I'm guessing the calcium supplement idea was based either on analysis of the chemical composition of the soil in which the beastie's home bush grew, or possibly the idea that they might be to some extent cannibalistic.
posted by It's Raining Florence Henderson at 10:38 AM on February 29, 2012 [1 favorite]


My gut says that getting rid of a bunch of rats to preserve the walking stick is totally worth it, but I'm wondering how to justify that.

Try this: a warehouse is on fire. It contains a thousand Elvis on Velvet prints and one original Picasso. You have only enough time to rescue either the Elvis prints or the Picasso. Which will you save, and why?
posted by binturong at 10:40 AM on February 29, 2012 [5 favorites]


Let's just breed the bugs a little bit larger, reintroduce them to their home island, and let them feed on the rats.
posted by Rock Steady at 10:42 AM on February 29, 2012 [2 favorites]


Love this story. I can't believe how much people are squicked by this. Of course, living half a continent away helps. Waking up to a bug that big crawling on me might be traumatic in a big way. Then again, I like giant hissing cockroaches. It;s spiders that scare me, but still, we put them outside rather than stomp them into an unrecognizable splat.
posted by annsunny at 10:45 AM on February 29, 2012 [1 favorite]


The Tree Lobster hatching video is like a clown car full of Blarrrghhhh!
posted by memewit at 10:46 AM on February 29, 2012


Try this: a warehouse is on fire. It contains a thousand Elvis on Velvet prints and one original Picasso. You have only enough time to rescue either the Elvis prints or the Picasso. Which will you save, and why?

Do you make up these questions, Mr. binturong? Or do they write 'em down for you?
posted by Floydd at 10:48 AM on February 29, 2012 [9 favorites]


> Let's just breed the bugs a little bit larger, reintroduce them to their home island, and let them feed on the rats.

Well, we should really give them a fighting chance and splice some stag beetle DNA into them so they can have some nice mandibles.
posted by Burhanistan at 10:48 AM on February 29, 2012 [1 favorite]


Reads that presumed extinct species has been found alive. Yay!

Looks at pictures.

yay?
posted by Zed at 10:55 AM on February 29, 2012 [2 favorites]


It contains a thousand Elvis on Velvet prints and one original Picasso. You have only enough time to rescue either the Elvis prints or the Picasso. Which will you save, and why?

I think the ethical issue has to do with killing a living being, regardless of how many other ones there are.
posted by empath at 10:58 AM on February 29, 2012 [1 favorite]


i support preserving the bugs.

but what I would really support is someone building me a secret base on that awesome pointy island.
posted by jb at 11:00 AM on February 29, 2012 [9 favorites]


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.

This is blatantly plagiarized from a story I submitted to an erotic fiction website in 2006.
posted by Inspector.Gadget at 11:00 AM on February 29, 2012 [12 favorites]


I think the ethical issue has to do with killing a living being, regardless of how many other ones there are.

If you wanna take it there, we killed the bugs originally by introducing rats to the island.
posted by cmoj at 11:02 AM on February 29, 2012 [1 favorite]


Also, Elvis killed Picasso.
posted by It's Raining Florence Henderson at 11:03 AM on February 29, 2012 [3 favorites]


Like I said, maybe they are delicious.
posted by jabberjaw at 11:12 AM on February 29, 2012


I wonder if some other insect can be introduced to eat the rats.
posted by ZeusHumms at 11:15 AM on February 29, 2012


I'm thinking I came to the wrong place to start a discussion on the normative ethics of conservationism, so I guess I'll just reiterate that these bugs are totally sweet and I would let one crawl on me in a heartbeat.
posted by invitapriore at 11:16 AM on February 29, 2012 [2 favorites]


Horror and awesome in equal amounts.
posted by RolandOfEld at 11:16 AM on February 29, 2012


Although we have started having success at eradicating rats on a few small, uninhabited islands, I think doing it on a populated island may be beyond our current ability. But it's worth a shot.
posted by snofoam at 11:49 AM on February 29, 2012


Nope. Nope. Nope. Nope.
posted by punkfloyd at 11:52 AM on February 29, 2012


Surely we have the technology nowadays to kill two birds with one stone and genetically engineer the new bugs to be poisonous to rats? Becasue I solve all problems by asking myself, "What Would Monsanto Do?"
posted by billyfleetwood at 11:55 AM on February 29, 2012 [1 favorite]


Come on guys, you're crazy-- it's adorable! And weirdly romantic.

And if I can say that-- I used to scream when I saw palmetto bugs-- then anyone can.
posted by suburbanbeatnik at 11:56 AM on February 29, 2012


Do we never learn? Today, we side with the stick bugs against the rats. Tomorrow, the stick bugs turn our own weapons against us...
posted by Philosopher Dirtbike at 11:58 AM on February 29, 2012 [2 favorites]


I am SO GLAD I read the comments so I know that I will never, ever click to see what this thing looks like. Nope. NOOOOOOoooooooooo
posted by Occula at 12:02 PM on February 29, 2012


How can you read the article's last line and not be a little moved?

01. huge gross bugs
02. they aren't afraid of sharks
03. horrible skittering legs
04. they aren't afraid of sharks
05. chitinous exoskeletons are usually a sign of terrible things
06. THEY AREN'T AFRAID OF SHARKS
posted by elizardbits at 12:02 PM on February 29, 2012 [7 favorites]


Screw your vertebrate chauvinism, this is so cool. I can't even get over how ridiculously fake that island looks.
posted by theodolite at 11:48 AM on February 29

Unusual != fake
posted by The Thnikkaman at 11:49 AM on February 29


"looks" != "is"
posted by IAmBroom at 12:04 PM on February 29, 2012 [3 favorites]


I love this Jane Goodall quote from the opening of the Discover Magazine piece linked in the NPR article:
In 2008, during my lecture tour in Australia, a very large, very black, very friendly Lord Howe Island stick insect (Dryococelus australis) crawled across my hands, my face and my head. The encounter sent shivers up my spine—knowing, as I did, the incredible story of how it came to be there.
The shivers didn't come from the big bug crawling across her face. The shivers came from the incredible background story of its continued existence.
posted by It's Raining Florence Henderson at 12:10 PM on February 29, 2012 [4 favorites]


how they sleep at night, in pairs, the male with three of his legs protectively over the female beside him

A lot of guys do this. Well, maybe "protectively" is the wrong word.
posted by msalt at 12:17 PM on February 29, 2012


Yeah - the third leg is more projective than protective.
posted by It's Raining Florence Henderson at 12:25 PM on February 29, 2012 [2 favorites]


The shivers didn't come from the big bug crawling across her face. The shivers came from the incredible background story of its continued existence.


Maybe also the fact that there was a big bug crawling across her face.
posted by Philosopher Dirtbike at 12:26 PM on February 29, 2012


The closest I want to get to these creatures is in the next Animal Crossing game. I bet Tom Nook would pay a fortune for a tree lobster.
posted by brina at 12:27 PM on February 29, 2012 [3 favorites]


I think the ethical issue has to do with killing a living being, regardless of how many other ones there are.

Well, the ethics of killing an animal is the real question. I have no personal ethical qualms about killing rats, but there are certainly ethical questions about the means of killing that might have to be adopted in order to successfully achieve the set goal. Sodium fluoroacetate is the weapon of choice, yes? The symptoms of poisoning seem awful enough to make the debate at least complicated.
posted by howfar at 1:26 PM on February 29, 2012


Poor rats. Don't hate the player, hate the game.
posted by Summer at 1:32 PM on February 29, 2012 [1 favorite]


A few points above that I can't keep silent on...

1) Rats in the Pacific Islands: Where to begin? There are just no ethical quandaries involved in killing the majority of rat species on Pacific islands (the Pacific rat is interesting, but it's not the biggest problem - it can't swim anyway. The biggest problem is the Norwegian rat or the black rat). Whenever rats get onto islands, decimation of native species follows.

Surprisingly, eradicating rats from islands is far from impossible (link goes to abstract... but the gist is there. Memail me if you'd like me to send you the pdf). If you throw enough strategically allocated resources (less than you would think) at the task, it can be done. NZ is leading the way in rat eradication projects (and here is another example), but good efforts are being made all over the Pacific. Have a look at this project in Fiji, for example (pdf link).

In short, rat eradication is possible and the results are impressive.

2) Enough with the anti-invertebrate sentiments! Stick insects are incredibly gentle herbivores. There are a whole range of Australian species that you can keep as pets and they are both stunning and cute! The beasties that originally came from Lord Howe Island look beautiful!

3) Someone said earlier that coconut crabs taste disgusting. Having eaten a coconut crab whilst doing fieldwork on a remote equatorial island, I can unequivocally refute this statement.
posted by Alice Russel-Wallace at 2:07 PM on February 29, 2012 [58 favorites]


It's not that I wish death to every insect in the world, because that would be immoral and ecologically naive, but that HORRIBLE GLOSSY EVIL CRUNCHY FACELESS CREEPING SKITTERING insects simply never came into existence in the first place. Goes double for this stick cudgel insect. Go rats.
posted by Zerowensboring at 2:18 PM on February 29, 2012 [1 favorite]


dangit! that's supposed to read

Goes double for this stick cudgel insect. Go rats.
posted by Zerowensboring at 2:20 PM on February 29, 2012


Here is the theme song for this FPP.
posted by It's Raining Florence Henderson at 2:34 PM on February 29, 2012 [1 favorite]


The very last line of that story actually made my eyes well up and my chin did a sooky-quiver.

*fist pump* Go Dryococelus australis, go!
posted by tumid dahlia at 2:49 PM on February 29, 2012 [4 favorites]


As a mammal myself, I usually tend to sympathize with other mammals, but, in this case, I say let the extermination of black rats on Lord Howe Island commence.

Yep. It makes me sad that this is no fault of the rats at all - they're just doing what they evolved to do, after all, and it ain't like they built the ships themselves - and that the method of extermination is incredibly painful for the ratties, but those stick insects are fucking badass as hell and I love them and I want them to have their home back. I'd also like to drown anybody who would use one as fishing bait but, hey, baby steps.
posted by tumid dahlia at 2:55 PM on February 29, 2012 [3 favorites]


Can we compromise by killing all the rats and not replacing them with miniature crawling Saurons of Doom?
posted by Joe in Australia at 3:09 PM on February 29, 2012


Can we compromise by killing all the rats and not replacing them with miniature crawling Saurons of Doom?

NO COMPROMISE! DEATH TO ALL VERTEBRATES! FEED THE HIVE! FEEEEEED THE HIIIIIIIIIIIIIVE!

Sorry, don't know where that came from.
posted by infinitywaltz at 3:23 PM on February 29, 2012 [2 favorites]


Watching the hatching video, I was struck by one thing - why was it so hard to pull its legs out of the shell? For a while it was struggling, I assumed, to free its front legs trapped against the opening of the egg by the body. But then, all of a sudden, the abdomen is free and all the legs are still stuck in there. Even after it gets two legs out, it struggles to remove the remaining ones. Any entomologist care to chime in on why?

Also, death to rats!
posted by HE Amb. T. S. L. DuVal at 4:41 PM on February 29, 2012 [1 favorite]


Did no-one else raise an eyebrow when the article mentioned the insects may have 'hitchhiked on birds'?

WHAT BIRD? WHAT BIRD IS GOING TO AGREE TO THAT?
posted by Ritchie at 4:49 PM on February 29, 2012 [7 favorites]


Probably thought they were hobbits.
posted by It's Raining Florence Henderson at 4:51 PM on February 29, 2012 [4 favorites]


WHAT BIRD? WHAT BIRD IS GOING TO AGREE TO THAT?

Bird with bad depth-perception sees insect meal far below.

Bird swoops in ... closer ... Oooh, that bug's bigger than I thought, it'll make an excellent meal!

Bird gets closer. Bug just keeps getting bigger. Something is off. Wait a minute! Bird puts on the brakes.

Too late! Bug has attached itself to bird! AAAUUUUGGGHHH!

Bird eeeks out, frantically flying about, bobbing up and down, trying to dislodge the giant insect from its body.

Bug says, "Pardon me, Bird. I am but a simple, non-threatening insect that seeks passage. My kind seem to be the favorite meal of many rodents, and I wish to find a new home, one with no rodents. May I hitch a ride?"

"I see," says Bird. "In that case, GET THE EFFING EFF OFF OF ME FREAK!"

"Both of us?" says the second bug, who has also attached itself to the bird.

Bird, now with no control over its body, shivering with nothing but pure heebie-jeebies, runs aground on a tiny little island of the coast of Australia.

"Thank you, kind sir!" say the bugs as they exit the bird to their new home, free from predators.

That evening, they sleep under the stars, spooning.

FIN
posted by jabberjaw at 5:12 PM on February 29, 2012 [61 favorites]


Maybe it was just the one birds, and it had like fifty of the insects on it, and it flew directly into the side of the cliff out of desperation, exploding in a puff of feathers?
posted by tumid dahlia at 5:31 PM on February 29, 2012 [1 favorite]


I kind of imagined the insect and the bird forming an unlikely friendship which ends up with the insect doing a victory-air-punch while riding the bird, sort of like Bastian and Falkor the Luck Dragon.
posted by Ritchie at 5:35 PM on February 29, 2012 [3 favorites]


I love Lord Howe Island. There are some other things (other than an a re-introduced stick insect) that might put you off though. I encountered quite a few cockroaches while I was there.
There were a lot of spiders too (bonus, hardly any flies) like the Bird Shit Spider and the multitudinous Golden Orb Weaver which made walking the walking tracks such fun at night when you can't see the webs.
Of an evening you have to take care that the spot you have chosen to watch the sunset isn't the landing place of the Lord Howe Island Muttonbird (Shearwater behaviour was inspiration for Hitchcock's The Birds) because they arrive in large numbers and their method of landing is to come in at quite a clip and just crash into the vegetation before heading off to their burrows. Being dive-bombed by a squadron of 2lb birds is no fun.
If you head into the water you need to keep an eye out for the Kingfish. Your'e not necessarily safe from the numerous sharks if you're out the water either. I was walking on the beach at low tide and saw and heard some splashes off in the distance. As they came closer I realised to my horror that is was a shark making it's way towards me by leaping via a series of shallow pools of water that had been left by the receding tide. I didn't stop running until I had reached the tree line, way up on the beach.
Oh! and a lot of the businesses are owned by Seventh-Day Adventists [PDF] so they are closed on Saturdays.
posted by unliteral at 5:35 PM on February 29, 2012 [28 favorites]


My first thought was--has anyone (or has anyone considered) BASE jumping off of that rock?!? Seems ideal . . .
posted by eggman at 5:40 PM on February 29, 2012


I didn't stop running until I had reached the tree line, way up on the beach.

I don't blame you at all. Land sharks are twice as scary as the regular kind.
posted by axiom at 8:55 PM on February 29, 2012 [3 favorites]


I reserve the right to think that this is totally cool and have the heebie-jeebies too.
posted by deborah at 10:12 PM on February 29, 2012 [2 favorites]


My first thought was--has anyone (or has anyone considered) BASE jumping off of that rock?!? Seems ideal . . .

Except for the sharks at the bottom...
posted by Skeptic at 11:36 PM on February 29, 2012 [1 favorite]


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.


Ok this right here is the problem. This is not a normal response to poop. I'm just saying.
posted by Fizz at 4:50 AM on March 1, 2012 [2 favorites]


Based on the amount of favorites this thread got, there is clearly a market for more poop and bug related posts.

March is going to be Dung Beetle month on Metafilter.
posted by empath at 6:48 AM on March 1, 2012


But how do they taste?
posted by limeonaire at 4:35 PM on March 1, 2012


Wow, that Ball's Pyramid is straight out of a King Kong movie.

Wonderful story about the King Kong style bugs and great thread.
posted by nickyskye at 5:09 PM on March 1, 2012


There are a whole range of Australian species that you can keep as pets and they are both stunning and cute!

posted by Alice Russel-Wallace


Very true. My daughter's class raised a couple of generations of stick insects as a project, and we babysat them over the Christmas holidays (six weeks). They are sweet and gentle and inquisitive, and they radiate calmness and serenity. Much like the rats we now have as pets, I was shocked to realise that I had fallen in love with the little critters.

And they make grandmothers scream, which is always fun.
posted by malibustacey9999 at 8:48 PM on March 1, 2012 [4 favorites]


I about fainted during that hatching video. Because I kept holding my breath in suspense as that poor little green baby struggled to pull its flappy torso limbs out of the gooey confines of the egg. Go, little one, you can do it!

I loved the expressions of joy on the entomologists' faces in the pics in the original article - "Here is a giant bug we thought was extinct, and it's so neato, lookitem crawl!"

I think Australia needs to follow the example of NZ and its giant weta. Take pride in your giant bugs, people!
posted by gingerest at 10:12 PM on March 1, 2012 [1 favorite]


As they came closer I realised to my horror that is was a shark making it's way towards me by leaping via a series of shallow pools of water that had been left by the receding tide.

Holy shit. This thread may need a second sidebarred comment.
posted by rory at 7:44 AM on March 2, 2012


Rory, AFAIK that is achieved via the "Fantastic" flag ( [!] ) at the end of posts, subject to moderator approval of course.
posted by IAmBroom at 10:54 AM on March 2, 2012


Very true. My daughter's class raised a couple of generations of stick insects as a project, and we babysat them over the Christmas holidays (six weeks). They are sweet and gentle and inquisitive, and they radiate calmness and serenity. Much like the rats we now have as pets, I was shocked to realise that I had fallen in love with the little critters.

And they make grandmothers scream, which is always fun.

Makes mental note to invite malibustacey9999 to parties...
posted by IAmBroom at 10:55 AM on March 2, 2012 [1 favorite]


Re: the gamble of giving calcium, the Husbandry Manual linked above, says-

"After five days she became completely immobile and unreactive to touch or
light, and a solution of melaleuca leaves (mashed with a mortar and pestle),
glucose and calcium in distilled water was administered to her with an
eyedropper on her mouthparts. Within a few hours, she became active again
and resumed normal activity, subsequently living for another year. The cause
of her morbidity and the reasons for the success of the treatment are still
unknown
."

posted by spongeboy at 4:07 AM on March 3, 2012


But how do they taste?

A lot like these, I expect.
posted by scalefree at 11:01 AM on March 3, 2012


they taste alright, but the texture's a little sticky
posted by balistic at 11:07 AM on March 5, 2012


GUYS. You guys are WEIRD. I'm all teary-eyed with happiness over this story. Stick insects are adorable! And totally harmless! Unless you are a vegetable of some sort! And no further comment on that!

This is the best thing I have read for quite a while. My sympathies are totally with the stick insects in the battle between them and weird human hangups. And I totally want to give that entomologist who saved Eve a huge hug. And eeee, the hatching video! There are only a few thousand of these little guys in the world, and there very nearly weren't any at all. Don't tell me it's not on *any* level inspiring to get to witness the birth of another.

I want a pair as pets now. I want to watch them cuddle.

I am going to go off and have a much better day now than I would have otherwise. Thank you!
posted by Because at 5:28 AM on March 6, 2012


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