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.
This towering figure against the horizon of the Pacific may look like the castle from Frozen, but it is, in fact, an island known as Ball’s Pyramid. And on this island, a dramatic tale has unfolded that only nature could provide.
Discovered by the British Navy in 1778, the peak of this magnificent geological construct reaches 1,844 feet. It’s hard to believe that it’s real!
While it looks like a dragon’s lair, it’s actually all that remains of an ancient volcano. It also holds the last surviving members of a very special species.
Ball’s Pyramid is just 13 miles from Lord Howe Island…
When it was discovered by European explorers in the late 1700s, Lord Howe Island was home to a strange creature: these black, armored insects, said to be the the length of a human hand and given the name “tree lobsters.”
In the early 20th century—1918 to be exact!—a nemesis of the these tree lobsters arrived on their shores: black rats. In only two years, the rats decimated the Lord Howe insect population, and the last of them was seen in 1920. Or so we thought.
But in 2001, two Australian scientists, David Priddel and Nicholas Carlile, decided to investigate rumors of stick insect corpses on Ball’s Pyramid.
Patrick Honan/Nick Carlile
Around 500 feet up the peak, they found what they were looking for. Gathered around a single bush was a tiny colony of 24 Lord Howe stick insects.
They were just as big as the legends said they were. Some were up to six inches in length, and they are now considered the heaviest flightless stick insect in the world.
“It felt like stepping back into the Jurassic age,” Carlile said, “when insects ruled the world.”
In the years since, conservation authorities have been trying to increase the insects’ numbers while being careful with the tiny colony.
Recently, they were able to capture the birth of a new generation of insects on film, and it was truly a magical moment. For more stories of invasive species changing their surroundings, check out the next slide!
Black rats aren’t the only invasive creatures roaming the Earth, though. In fact, there are several species, including the Myna Bird, that have caused devastation to the natural populations that are there. Native to Central and South Asia, the pet trade has led to their being found in far away countries like South Africa, New Zealand and Australia.
For more than 20 years, the Burmese python has been invading the Everglades in Florida and wreaking havoc on much of the area’s wildlife. Reaching lengths of up to 20 feet, these frightening creatures feast on many endangered animals.
Cane Toads were first brought to Australia in the 1930s in an effort to control the cane sugar pests, though, since their arrival, they have practically invaded the country. Now, their numbers are upwards of 200 million and that’s not even the worst part.
The Giant African Snail lives in tropical and sub-tropical regions, though, it invaded Southeast and Pacific Asia by way of being transported by agricultural product shipments. Now, researchers say they are one of the worst snail pests in that area.
Native to the Indo-Pacific Ocean, Lionfish are venomous fish that have made their way to the Eastern seaboard of the United States. Researchers believe that they were spread to this area during the 1990s by way of Floridian aquarium hobbyists.
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.
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