Giant Stick Insect Babies In World-First Captive Breeding Program At Museum Victoria

07/01/2016 3:01 PM AEDT | Updated 15/07/2016 12:51 PM AEST

Some world firsts are hotly contested -- the first man on the moon. The first aircraft to break the sound barrier. The first vegan steak.

But a significant world first has happened in Museum Victoria (and it's a first we don't think the Russians or anyone else were chasing) -- captivity-bred gargantuan stick insect siblings.

And you can meet the miracle babies at Museum Victoria.

The elusive species can grow longer than 50cm long and their stick-like camouflage makes them hard to find. Only three females have ever been found in the wild, which museum live exhibits coordinator Maik Fiedel said made the captive breeding program an important step to securing the species’ survival.

“I found the third ever female in the wild," Fiedel told HuffPost Australia.

"We took her back to the hotel and before we got ready to post her to the museum, she started laying eggs.

"There is so little known about their biology and ecology so we had no idea how many eggs a female lays in her lifetime."

She had laid four eggs before she arrived in Melbourne, and went on to lay 12.

Now came the nervous wait to determine whether the female, at this point, fondly nicknamed Lady Gaga-ntuan, had laid eggs as a result of getting 'sticky' with a male, or had done it herself.

Gargantuan stick insects don't need to have sex like most animals. Rather, many female stick insects can produce fertile eggs by themselves in a process called parthenogenesis but there's a catch -- and all the eggs will hatch into females.

"When they hatched, I identified a male and right away we knew they were the result of a male and female," Fiedel said.

Now the hatchlings have grown and been bred with each other, producing their own eggs. If you're worried about genetic diversity, Fiedel said they had plans to introduce other males in the future.

giant stick insect

"There have only ever been three females found int he wild, but I think about eight or nine males in Far North Queensland," he said.

"We're hoping when a male is found we'll be able to introduce it to them. Or we could use a female as a trap. She would release pheromones into the forest floor and attract a male."

You can see these incredible creatures in the Discovery Centre at Melbourne Museum.

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