Species thought lost sighted: turtle and bee are back

Researchers have spotted a species of bee not seen for 40 years. Previously, a turtle was discovered that was last seen in 1906.

Believed lost: a female of the subspecies Chelonoidis nigra phantasticus Photo: ap

All black and about the size of a human thumb: the Wallace’s giant bee has been spotted again for the first time in decades. Researchers announced Thursday they had discovered specimens of the world’s largest bee species on a remote Indonesian island. It was "just incredible" to "actually see how beautiful and large this species is, to hear the sound of its huge wings," bee photographer Clay Bolt said in a statement released by the conservation organization Global Wildlife Conservation (GWC).

The bee species was extinct in the 19th century. It was discovered in the nineteenth century by British naturalist Alfred Russel Wallace and, according to the GWC, was last sighted in the wild in 1981. Bolt now found a hive on an island in the northern Moluccas. "My dream now is to make this bee a symbol of conservation in this part of Indonesia," the photographer said.

The bee, with the Latin name Megachile pluto, is about four times the size of a honeybee. Bee expert Eli Wyman of Princeton University hopes the find will spur further research "that will give us a better understanding of the life history of this very unique bee" and protect it from extinction.

Just a few days ago, a turtle thought to be extinct was found on the Galapagos island of Fernandina. An expedition of conservationists and the Galapagos Park Authority have discovered a female of the subspecies Chelonoidis nigra phantasticus, Ecuador’s Environment Minister Marcelo Mata tweeted Tuesday. In addition, he published photos of the specimen. Last one of the animals, which are also called Fernandina giant tortoises because of their exclusive occurrence on that Galapagos island, had been detected in 1906.

Including Chelonoidis nigra phantasticus, more than ten subspecies of Galapagos tortoises are listed, many of which occur only on one of the larger islands of the archipelago, which has been a Unesco World Heritage Site since 1979. One giant tortoise became world famous as "Lonesome George" when it was discovered on Pinta Island in 1971. George died in 2012 at around 90 years old, the last of his subspecies – mating attempts with females of a related subspecies had failed.

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