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Stick insects: Three females remain

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11:52am, March 5, 2001

Australian biologists have discovered live specimens of a dramatic insect species given up as extinct decades ago.

A special expedition in February sponsored by the New South Wales National Parks and Wildlife Service located three female Dryococelus australis on a ledge of a small, rocky island called Balls Pyramid off the eastern coast of Australia. "We couldn't jump for joy or we'd have fallen off the ledge," says codiscoverer Nicholas Carlile.

Stick insects, or phasmids, look like twigs that have learned to walk. D. australis intrigued naturalists because it was big--the length of a human hand--but didn't fly. Most insects big enough to be a good snack for predators can fly away, but this phasmid had evolved on islands without such predators.

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