IUCN threat status:

Critically Endangered (CR)

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Saint Helena earwig

The Saint Helena earwig (Labidura herculeana) is a species of earwig endemic to the isolated island of Saint Helena, in the south Atlantic Ocean. It is also known as the Saint Helena giant earwig.[1]

Description[edit]

Growing as large as 84 mm (3.3 in) in length (including forceps), the Saint Helena earwig is the world's largest earwig. It is shiny black with reddish legs, short elytra, and no hind wings.[2]

Behaviour[edit]

The earwig inhabits deep burrows, coming out only at night following rain. Dave Clark of the London Zoo said that "[t]he females make extremely good mothers".[3]

Distribution and habitat[edit]

The earwig is endemic to Saint Helena, being found on the Horse Point Plain, Prosperous Bay Plain, and the Eastern Arid Area of the island. It is known to have lived in plain areas, gumwood forests, and seabird colonies in rocky places.

History[edit]

The Saint Helena earwig was first discovered by Danish entomologist Johan Christian Fabricius in 1798. It later became confused with the smaller and more familiar shore earwig Labidura riparia, and received little attention from science. It was all but forgotten until it was rediscovered in 1962 when two ornithologists, Douglas Dorward and Philip Ashmole, found some enormous dry tail pincers while searching for bird bones. They were given to zoologist Arthur Loveridge who confirmed they belonged to a form of huge earwig, and the species was named L. loveridgei.

In 1965, entomologists found live specimens in burrows under boulders in Horse Point Plain. While they were thought to be L. loveridgei, once examined they were found to be the same species as L. herculeana, and this was reinstated as their official scientific name. Other searches since the 1960s have not succeeded in finding the earwig,[4] and it was allegedly last seen in 1967.[3]

On 4 January 1982, the Saint Helena Philatelic Bureau issued a commemorative stamp depicting the earwig, which brought attention to its conservation.[5]

In the spring of 1988, a two-man search called Project Hercules was launched by the London Zoo, but was unsuccessful.[4]

In April 1995 another specimen of earwig remains was found. It proved that the earwigs not only lived in gumwood forests but, before breeding seabirds were wiped out by introduced predators, they also lived in seabird colonies.[6]

Conservation status[edit]

The earwig has not been seen alive since 1967, though there were unsuccessful searches for it in 1988, 1993 and 2003. It is possibly extinct due to habitat loss as well as predation by introduced rodents and an introduced centipede (Scolopendra morsitans). However many people believe the earwig has survived.[7] If it still exists, it may be threatened by the planned Saint Helena Airport at Prosperous Bay Plain. It is in category CR B1+2a ver 2.3 (1994) in the IUCN Red List of Threatened Species.

References[edit]

  1. ^ Insects and Spiders of the World, Volume 4. Tarrytown, NY: Marshall Cavendish Corporation. 2003. p. 236. ISBN 0-7614-7338-6. 
  2. ^ "Labidura". Archived from the original on 2011-02-05. Retrieved 2011-02-05. 
  3. ^ a b Worthington, P. (1988, Over there, the topics ring all sorts of bells: [daily edition]. Financial Post, p. 14. Retrieved from http://search.proquest.com/docview/435837695?accountid=5705
  4. ^ a b Shuker, Karl. The Lost Ark. Harper Collins Publisher, 1993. 235–236.
  5. ^ "Earwig, Saint Helena Giant." Endangered Species. Ed. Sonia Benson and Rob Nagel. 2nd ed. Vol. 2: Arachnids, Birds, Crustaceans, Insects, and Mollusks. Detroit: UXL, 2004. 482–483. Gale Virtual Reference Library. Web. 13 Feb. 2011.
  6. ^ "The invertebrates of Prosperous Bay Plain, St Helena". Retrieved 2011-02-05. 
  7. ^ eyewitness books: endangered animals

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