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

Abstract

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.

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Acknowledgements

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).

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Correspondence to Patrick Honan.

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Honan, P. Notes on the biology, captive management and conservation status of the Lord Howe Island Stick Insect (Dryococelus australis) (Phasmatodea). J Insect Conserv 12, 399–413 (2008). https://doi.org/10.1007/s10841-008-9162-5

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Keywords

  • Inbreeding
  • Insect husbandry
  • Insect pathology
  • Ex situ conservation
  • Captive management