While we’d like to think that we’ve heard about everything Earth has to offer, the reality is that there are corners of the globe so remote and strange, they are beyond human imagination. Small islands in the middle of the ocean are ideal for fostering wildlife that we never thought possible.
Off the coast of Australia, on a windswept, largely inhospitable spit of jagged rock known as Ball’s Pyramid, is one of those islands. It is home to a strange and ancient creature has made a startling comeback, and you will have to see it to believe it.
If you’re out sailing in the ocean, land masses are few and far between. When you suddenly come across one, especially one that looks like Ball’s Pyramid, it can be exhilarating; a huge land mass jutting out of the water is a scene straight out of any adventure movie. It’s always a mystery thinking about what kind of life exists on land or what sort of treasures you might find.
You always have to proceed with caution, however, because not everything you come across when out at sea will welcome you with open arms. Disease, dangerous wildlife, or even violent indigenous tribes can all pose threats.
The pyramid is named after Lieutenant Henry Lidgbird Ball, who made the incredible discovery in 1788. Experts believe the first person to actually step ashore was Henry Wilkinson, a geologist from New South Wales, in 1882. It must have been such an amazing experience to be the first person to step onto this unexplored terrain.
There was no telling what they would find, but the explorers hoped it would be of some historical or scientific importance. Team after team of scientists visited the island attempting to reach the summit, which was finally traversed in 1965.
The pyramid is an erosional remnant of a volcanic shield that formed millions of years ago. It is known as being the tallest volcanic stack on Earth. Experts hoped that a discovery this large had to contain some species of plants and animals that had gone undiscovered, or were even thought to be extinct.
Crossing into unknown territory can be as exciting as it is intimidating. On one hand, you might make an epic discovery that will rumble the scientific world. But, on the other hand, you might come across something far more sinister.
The Lorde Howe Islands, similar to Ball’s Pyramid, is a half-moon shaped volcanic remnant in the Tasman sea. Interestingly enough, the same man who discovered Ball’s Island, Lieutenant Henry Lidgbird Ball, also discovered the Lord Howe Islands, as well. Imagine making two enormous discoveries in your lifetime?
Lately, there have been many conservation efforts to keep the islands as pure as possible. One of them being how to deal with an extensive rodent problem. A ship carrying the critters crashed into the island in 1918, and since then several of the natural bird species that once flourished no longer do. Oh, those pesky creatures.
Many people find insects and tiny things with lots of legs extremely unnerving. The early explorers who landed on Ball’s Pyramid first were no different. Hundreds of these creepy critters swarmed the island and the settlers had to be cautious as to where they set up their camps.
Although they were initially labeled “tree lobsters,” the correct name for them was the Lord Howe stick insects. The hardened shell on the outside of their body, also known as an exoskeleton, gave them the appearance that they were crustaceans living outside of the ocean. And you thought regular stick insects were creepy!
A huge problem with many of the ships that these discoverers traveled in was that they contained disease or vermin that would run rampant through the already existing plants and animals and kill them off over time. Unfortunately, this happened all too often. Hygiene and health precautions while transporting cargo were nowhere near as strict as they are today, and too many times disaster would follow the sailors onto land.
It’s incredibly unfortunate that a group of people who were simply trying to make a profound discovery ended up doing the complete opposite and wiping out an entire species of wildlife. Or did they…?
When you’re a scientist, and suddenly a species that you thought to be extinct suddenly reappears in the scientific community and shouts “I may not be extinct yet!” you sit up and take note.
That’s exactly what any passionate researcher would do, and that’s why Priddel and Carlile decided to investigate the rumor. They needed to check for themselves to see if there was any truth behind what they were hearing, because if there was, it would be a monumental find. Rediscovering a long lost animal is like reuniting a piece of missing history with its match. It’s always worth doing.
Patrick Honan/Nick Carlile
This was amazing! All these years had gone by with no sight of the Lord Howe stick insects, and now, suddenly, Priddel and Carlile realized the rumors were true! There were, in fact, a small colony of stick insects living on Ball’s Pyramid.
They knew they had to immediately try to increase the population through controlled breeding.
Lucky for the scientific world, entomologists take their jobs very seriously. These are a brave group of people who study all things creepy-crawly. They get out into the field and delve into the dark places that we fear to study the habits of insects and other dirt-dwellers.
Even though we all may think bugs are gross, after you listen to an entomologist talk about how important they truly are to the food chain, we can at least respect the role they play.
Millions of years ago, insects and reptiles made up a majority of the creatures who roamed planet Earth. Because it was the Jurassic era, the insects shared the land with dinosaurs.
Even though they are not related, if you look at an insect and a dinosaur, you can see lots of similarities in look and shape. The ability to revisit such an important period in our past is always fascinating.
It’s always a tricky thing to try to to regrow the population of any species. Unsuccessful efforts can lead to death, which will dwindle the population even more.
It’s every conservationists goal to bring a near extinct group of animals back to substantial numbers, and reintroduce them into the food chain again. Let’s hope that with the help of Priddel and Carlile, it can be done.
How amazing is this!? To actually be able to witness the birth of one of these rare animals who will also now help grow the population is a once-in-a-lifetime experience.
Credit to all of the inquisitive scientists who helped make it happen!
When these seemingly harmless birds arrive, they wreak havoc by damaging crops, causing health hazards with their infected droppings, and preying on the nests of endangered birds and eating their chicks, especially in places like Saint Helena.
This includes making meals of alligators, who have been on the endangered species list since 1967. Researchers believe that these invasive creatures came to be this way by way of careless pet owners. Most likely, they would release these domesticated Burmese Pythons into the wild and they would find a mate and breed.
These Cane Toads make meals of some native species and fight for food to survive and territory with many others, as well. They also have toxic glands directly behind their heads that are capable of killing animals native to the area, including endangered quolls, who eat the toads.
Now, researchers are attempting to teach the quolls not to eat the Cane Toads by injecting already deceased ones with nausea-inducing chemicals that will deter them from wanting to eat them in the future.
Not only do the Giant African Snails breed by the hundreds, but they also spread plant diseases and destroy crops.
It is said that in 1966, a boy brought three snails home to Miami after a trip in Hawaii, and when his mother released the snails into her garden within a short period of time, the snail population had increased to 18,000! It took nearly 10 years and $1 million to get rid of them.
Researchers have since discovered that the Lionfish, who has now been spotted in areas stretching from Rhode Island all the way down to Jamaica, is capable of killing off native fish populations by upwards of 80% within five weeks of their arrival. At that rate, they could wipe out entire species in no time.
Nature is truly an incredible force to behold. As humans, it’s fascinating to watch the way that populations grow in different parts of the world.