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Last Updated: Tuesday, 9 September, 2003, 11:23 GMT 12:23 UK
'Rarest insect' breeds in Australia
Lord Howe Island Stick Insect
The insect was thought to have become extinct
One of the rarest species of insects in the world has begun breeding at a zoo in Australia.

An egg laid by a female Lord Howe Island Stick Insect has hatched at Melbourne Zoo, nearly seven months after it was laid.

So little is known about the insect that entomologists did not know how long it would take for the baby to be born.

The species was only rediscovered in 2001, more than 80 years after it was believed to have become extinct.

The breeding pair at the zoo are the only adults of the species in captivity.

There are more than 100 eggs still incubating at the zoo.

'Wiped out'

Lord Howe Island Stick Insects were believed to have been wiped out in 1918 when rats infested the island after they escaped from a ship which ran aground.

The insects belong to such an ancient group of invertebrates that they have earned the nickname "Jurassic Insects".

Adults can grow up to 15cm long but were no match for the predatory rats.

In 2001, scientists discovered a tiny colony of the insects on Ball's Pyramid, about 23km (14 miles) off the coast of Lord Howe Island.

The island is situated about 700km east of Australia.

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