A daring Australian Museum expedition to Lord Howe Island has succeeded in its search for the rare and elusive Lord Howe Island Phasmid.


A rare Lord Howe Island Phasmid found during the AM expedition on Balls Pyramid.
A rare Lord Howe Island Phasmid found during the AM expedition on Balls Pyramid. Image: Tom Bannigan
© Australian Museum

Background

In February 2017, Australian Museum scientists embarked on an expedition to benchmark native and introduced animal populations on Lord Howe Island. Nestled on the Tasman seas between Australia and New Zealand, this volcanic remnant has a unique ecosystem that’s been largely preserved, rivalling that of the world-famous Galapagos archipelago.


Blainville beaked whale skeletons on Lord Howe Island.
Blainville beaked whale skeletons on Lord Howe Island. Image: Dr Rebecca Johnson
© Australian Museum

Outcome

AMRI scientists documented native flora and fauna, exhumed three whale skeletons, and scaled the sheer cliff faces of the remote Balls Pyramid in search of further specimens of the extremely rare LHI Phasmid.

Now, thanks to the daring efforts of the expedition team, a new female Phasmid has been recovered from Balls Pyramid, adding genetic diversity to a breeding program at Melbourne Zoo, and in doing so increasing the chances of survival, and eventual reintroduction of this rare insect species to its native home on Lord Howe Island.