Journal of Insect Conservation

, Volume 12, Issue 3–4, pp 399–413 | Cite as

Notes on the biology, captive management and conservation status of the Lord Howe Island Stick Insect (Dryococelus australis) (Phasmatodea)

  • Patrick HonanEmail author
Original Paper


The Lord Howe Island Stick Insect (Dryococelus australis: Phasmatodea: Phasmatidae: Eurycanthinae) is a large, flightless stick insect once thought to be extinct but rediscovered on an island (Balls Pyramid) near Lord Howe Island in 2001. A captive population at Melbourne Zoo is now in its fourth generation and aspects of the biology of the species are discussed. Observations focussed on the eggs as indicators of the health of the population and inbreeding depression, but included data on the juveniles where possible. Behavioural observations reveal that this species is very different from other Australian stick insects, but similar in many ways to overseas members of the Eurycanthinae. Veterinary interventions and post mortems have provided substantial information about the captive population and its environmental stresses, and have wider implications for captive invertebrate populations, particularly those involved in conservation programs. Evidence of inbreeding and the conservation significance of this species is discussed in context with other programs and their implications.


Inbreeding Insect husbandry Insect pathology Ex situ conservation Captive management 



The LHI Stick Insect captive breeding program is currently being undertaken by Rohan Cleave, Norman Dowsett, Robert Anderson, Zoe Marston and other invertebrate keepers at Melbourne Zoo. Special thanks to Rohan Cleave for his tireless management and analysis of thousands of LHISI eggs. Thanks to Dr David Priddel (Senior Researcher, New South Wales Department of Environment and Climate Change) for his oversight and foresight of the project, Dianne Gordon (Team Leader, Discovery and Learning, Healesville Sanctuary) for discussions and educational advice and Dr Tim New for reviewing the manuscript. Post mortems and pathological analyses were undertaken by Dr Kate Bodley, Dr Helen McCracken, Dr Michael Lynch, Dr Paul Ramos (Veterinarians, Melbourne Zoo) and Dr Peter Holtz (Veterinarian, Healesville Sanctuary).


  1. Bedford GO (1975) Defensive behaviour of the New Guinea Stick Insect Eurycantha (Phasmatodea: Phasmatidae: Eurycanthinae). Proc Linn Soc NSW 100:218–222Google Scholar
  2. Carlberg U (1981) Hatching-time of Extatosoma tiaratum (Macleay) (Phasmida). Entomol Mon Mag 117:199–200Google Scholar
  3. Carlberg U (1982) Egg production and adult mortality of Extatosoma tiaratum Macleay (Insecta: Phasmida). Zool Jahrb Abt Allg Zool Physiol Tiere 86(4):527–533Google Scholar
  4. Clark Sellick JT (1998) The micropylar plate of the eggs of Phasmida, with a survey of the range of plate form within the order. Syst Entomol 23:203–228CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  5. Clarke GM (2001) Invertebrate conservation in Australia: past, present and future prospects. Antenna 25:1–24Google Scholar
  6. Collins NM (ed) (1990) The management and welfare of invertebrates in captivity. National Federation of Zoological Gardens of Great Britain and Ireland, LondonGoogle Scholar
  7. Etheridge R (1889) The general zoology of Lord Howe Island. Aust Mus Mem 2:1–42Google Scholar
  8. Gurney AB (1947) Notes on some remarkable Australian walkingsticks, including a synopsis of the genus Extatosoma (Orthoptera: Phasmatidae). Ann Entomol Soc Am 40:373–396Google Scholar
  9. Hanski I, Poyry J (2007) Insect populations in fragmented habitats. In: Stewart AJA, New TR, Lewis OT (eds) Insect conservation biology. CABI, Wallingford, UK, pp 175–202Google Scholar
  10. Hennemann FH, Conle OV (2006) Papuacocelus papuanus n.gen., n.sp.—a new Eurycanthine from Papua New Guinea, with notes on the genus Dryococelus Gurney, 1947 and description of the egg (Phasmatodea: Phasmatidae: Eurycanthinae). Zootaxa 1375:31–49Google Scholar
  11. Honan P (2007a) Husbandry of the Lord Howe Island Stick Insect. Australasian Regional Association of Zoos and Aquaria, MelbourneGoogle Scholar
  12. Honan P (2007b) The Lord Howe Island Stick Insect: an example of the benefits of captive management. Vic Nat 124(4):258–261Google Scholar
  13. IUCN (1983) The IUCN Invertebrate Red Data Book. IUCN, Gland, SwitzerlandGoogle Scholar
  14. Lande R (1995) Mutation and conservation. Conserv Biol 9:782–791CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  15. Lea AM (1916) Notes on the Lord Howe Island phasma, and on an associated longicorn beetle. Proc Roy Soc S Aust 40:145–147Google Scholar
  16. Lewbart GA (ed) (2006) Invertebrate medicine. Blackwell Publishing Ltd, UKGoogle Scholar
  17. Lewis OT, New TR, Stewart AJA (2007) Insect conservation: progress and prospects. In: Stewart AJA, New TR, Lewis OT (eds) Insect conservation biology. CABI, Wallingford, UK, pp 431–436Google Scholar
  18. McAlpine DK (1967) Rediscovery of the Lord Howe Island phasmid. Aust Entomol Soc News Bull 2(3):71–72Google Scholar
  19. Minott TK (2006) New Guinea walkingstick husbandry manual. Terrestrial Invertebrate Taxon Advisory Group, American Zoo Association, USAGoogle Scholar
  20. New TR (1995) Introduction to invertebrate conservation biology. Oxford University Press, Melbourne, AustraliaGoogle Scholar
  21. Nicholls M (1952) A history of Lord Howe Island. Mercury Press, Hobart, AustraliaGoogle Scholar
  22. Nunney L, Campbell KA (1993) Assessing minimum viable population size: demography meets population genetics. Trends Ecol Evol 8:234–239CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  23. Pearce-Kelly P, Honan P, Barrett P, Morgan R, Perrotti L, Sullivan E, Daniel BA, Veltman K, Clarke D, Moxey T, Spencer W (2007) The conservation value of insect breeding programmes: rationale and example case studies. In: Stewart AJA, New TR, Lewis OT (eds) Insect conservation biology. CABI, Wallingford, UK, pp 57–75Google Scholar
  24. Priddel D, Carlile N, Humphrey M, Fellenberg S, Hiscox D, (2002) Interim recovery actions: the Lord Howe Island Phasmid Dryococelus australis. NSW National Parks and Wildlife Service unpublished report, Sydney, AustraliaGoogle Scholar
  25. Priddel D, Carlile N, Humphrey M, Fellenberg S, Hiscox D, (2003) Rediscovery of the ‘extinct’ Lord Howe Island stick-insect (Dryococelus australis (Montrouzier)) (Phasmatodea) and recommendations for its conservation. Biodivers Conserv 12:1391–1403CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  26. Rentz DCF (1996) Grasshopper country: the abundant orthopteroid insects of Australia. University of New South Wales Press, Sydney, AustraliaGoogle Scholar
  27. Saccheri IJ, Brakefield PM, Nichols RA (1996) Severe inbreeding depression and rapid fitness rebound in the butterfly Bicyclus anynana (Satyridae). Evolution 50:2000–2013CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  28. Sands DPA, New TR (2002) The action plan for Australian butterflies. Environment Australia, CanberraGoogle Scholar
  29. Schultz SA, Schultz MJ (1998) Tarantula keeper’s guide. Barron’s Educational Series, USAGoogle Scholar
  30. Smithers CN (1966) On some remains of the Lord Howe Island phasmid (Dryococelus australis (Montrouzier) (Phasmida)) from Ball’s Pyramid. Entomol Mon Mag 105:252Google Scholar
  31. Thompson DJ, Watts PC, Saccheri IJ (2007) Conservation genetics for insects. In: Stewart AJA, New TR, Lewis OT (eds) Insect conservation biology. CABI, Wallingford, UK, pp 280–300Google Scholar
  32. Yen AL, Butcher RJ (1997) An overview of the conservation of non-marine invertebrates in Australia. Environment Australia, CanberraGoogle Scholar
  33. Zompro O (2001) A review of the Eurycanthinae: Eurycanthini, with a key to genera, notes on the subfamily and designation of type species. Phasmid Stud 10(1):19–23Google Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media B.V. 2008

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Melbourne ZooParkvilleAustralia

Personalised recommendations