Saint Helena earwig
|Saint Helena earwig|
|Preserved specimen with dislocated posterior|
|Location of Saint Helena|
Labidura loveridgei Zeuner, 1962
The Saint Helena earwig or Saint Helena giant earwig (Labidura herculeana) was a large species of earwig endemic to the oceanic island of Saint Helena in the south Atlantic Ocean. It is now considered extinct.
Distribution and ecology
The earwig was endemic to Saint Helena, being found on the Horse Point Plain, Prosperous Bay Plain, and the Eastern Arid Area of the island. It was known to have lived in plain areas, gumwood forests and seabird colonies in rocky places. The earwig inhabited deep burrows, coming out only at night following rain. Dave Clark of the London Zoo said that "the females make extremely good mothers".
The Saint Helena earwig was first discovered by Danish entomologist Johan Christian Fabricius, who named it Labidura herculeana in 1798. It later became confused with the smaller and more familiar shore earwig Labidura riparia, was demoted to a subspecies of that species in 1904 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 huge earwig. The remains were forwarded to F.E. Zeuner, who named it as a new species Labidura loveridgei.
In 1965, entomologists found live specimens in burrows under boulders in Horse Point Plain. While they were thought to be a separate species L. loveridgei, once examined they were found to be the same as L. herculeana, and this was reinstated as their official scientific name (L. loveridgei became a junior synonym). Other searches since the 1960s have not succeeded in finding the earwig. It was allegedly last seen alive in 1967.
On 4 January 1982, the Saint Helena Philatelic Bureau issued a commemorative stamp depicting the earwig, which brought attention to its conservation. In the spring of 1988, a two-man search called Project Hercules was launched by the London Zoo, but was unsuccessful. 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.
The earwig has not been seen alive since 1967 despite searches for it in 1988, 1993 and 2003. It is possibly extinct due to habitat loss as well as predation by introduced rodents, mantids, and centipedes (Scolopendra morsitans). In 2014, the IUCN changed their assessment of L. herculeana on the IUCN Red List from Critically Endangered to Extinct.
- D. Pryce & L. White (2014). "Labidura herculeana". The IUCN Red List of Threatened Species. IUCN. 2014: e.T11073A21425735. doi:10.2305/IUCN.UK.2014-3.RLTS.T11073A21425735.en. Retrieved 15 January 2018.
- "Giant earwig". Insects and Spiders of the World. 4. Tarrytown, NY: Marshall Cavendish Corporation. 2003. p. 236. ISBN 0-7614-7338-6.
- "Labidura". St Helena and Ascension Island Natural History. Archived from the original on February 5, 2011. Retrieved February 5, 2011.
- Worthington, P. (1988). "Over there, the topics ring all sorts of bells". Financial Post. p. 14.
- Zeuner, F.E. (1962). A subfossil giant Dermapteron from St. Helena. Proceedings of the Zoological Society of London, 138: 651-653.
- Shuker, Karl (1993). The Lost Ark. Harper Collins. pp. 235–236. ISBN 0002199432.
- Benson, Sonia; Nagel, Rob, eds. (2004). "Earwig, Saint Helena Giant". Arachnids, Birds, Crustaceans, Insects, and Mollusks. Endangered Species. 2 (2nd ed.). Detroit: UXL. pp. 482–483. ISBN 9780787676209.
- "The Invertebrates of Prosperous Bay Plain, St Helena: a survey" (DOC). St Helena and Ascension Island Natural History. Retrieved February 5, 2011.
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