Two Animals Long Thought Extinct Have Just Been Found

Muriel Hammond
February 22, 2019

The world's largest bee, which had not been seen since 1981, has been rediscovered in Indonesia, scientists said on Thursday (Feb 21) as they released images of the insect.

A CQUniversity scientist is part of a team of experts that have made the "holy grail" of bee discoveries, rediscovering the world's largest bee in Indonesia.

Female specimens measure more than 1.5 inches in length and boast a wingspan of 2.5 inches.

Search teams failed to find the bee again, but the rediscovery of a sole female raises hopes that the region's forests still harbour this species.

Prior to this discovery, the bee was thought to have become extinct as well before Messer found six nests on the island of Bacan and other nearby islands.

He explains on the website his incredible journey to find the bee alive, which started almost two decades ago when he first learned of Wallace and his travels.

'To actually see how lovely and big the species is in life, to hear the sound of its giant wings thrumming as it flew past my head, was just incredible.

The bee was first discovered in 1858 by naturalist Alfred Russell Wallace, who developed the theory of evolution by natural selection at the same time as Charles Darwin.

The Global Wildlife Conservation is a nonproft that's been searching for "lost" species, or species that might not actually be extinct, but haven't been seen in a decade or more.

Last year, a Wallace's giant bee specimen sold for more than $9,000 on eBay.

Researchers had not seen the bee since 1981.

The rediscovery is being celebrated by entomologists, but scientists anxious about the species vulnerable status are concerned the publicity will put the giant bee in danger.

The bee's mouthparts also include a large labrum; in the early 1980s, entomologist Adam Catton Messer described watching a female Wallace's giant bee using its mandibles to scrape resin from a tree, and using its labrum and mandibles to roll the resin into a large ball - which it then carried as it flew back to its nest.

The goliath is four times bigger than a European honeybee and unlike its cousin, the solitary creature does not live in a nest with hundreds of other bees. Females are twice as big as the males.

However, in January, a search team found the bee in the Indonesian islands known as the North Moluccas.

Bolt told Earther they had a simple mission: "Number one, to see it in the wild, to document it, but also to make local contacts in Indonesia that could begin to work with us as partners to try and figure out how to protect the bee".

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