Here’s a reason to be happy about cockroaches, even if you don’t seem to like them. The long-thought-extinct Panesthia lata species of wood-eating roaches have been found. They are unique to Lord Howe Island in Australia.
Maxim Adams, a University of Sydney biology student, discovered cockroach families under a single banyan tree earlier this year. Since the 1930s, scientists believed the wingless cockroaches had become extinct due to the expansion of invading rats across the island.
“The survival is great news, as it has been more than 80 years since it was last seen,” said Lord Howe Island board chair Atticus Fleming in a University of Sydney statement on Friday.
“These cockroaches are almost like our own version of Darwin’s finches, separated on little islands over thousands or millions of years developing their own unique genetics.”
According to Fleming, half of the 1,600 native invertebrate species of Lord Howe are exclusive to the island.
Cockroaches play a vital role in the environment. Their intestines contain specialized microbes that allow them to consume decaying wood. According to the university, they are “nutrient recyclers” that aid in the breakdown of logs.
According to Australia’s Invasive Species Council, the effect of mice and rats on Lord Howe Island is blamed for the extinction of five bird species and at least a dozen invertebrates. An eradication operation has nearly rid the island of the invading rats.
The researchers plan to examine the roaches to understand more about their habitat, behaviors, and how they survived.