Hundreds of New Species Discovered in Papua New Guinea
Leeanne Alonso, Conservation International
Oct. 5, 2010
-- More than 200 new species of insects, amphibians, plants and other animals have been discovered in a remote region deep in the rainforest of Papua New Guinea's mountains. The study was part of a two-month-long expedition by Conservation International's Rapid Assessment Program. The program is intended to uncover biodiversity in little-known environments for not only scientific study but also conservation efforts. In this slide show, explore some of the new species that scientists uncovered during their journey. In this photo, we see a gathering of Papua New Guinean Highland Dancers performing in ceremonial costume.
Stephen Richards/Conservation International
More than 20 new frog species were identified during Conservation International's expedition. Living nearly 100 feet above the forest floor, this frog was more often heard than seen. During the night, the males of the species would emit loud, croaking noises. The individual pictured here is actually the only one the researchers were able to see. DNA analysis is still needed to confirm whether this amphibian is in fact a new species.
CI/photo by Stephen Richards
Although this mouse may not appear particularly extraordinary at first sight, it seems to be one of a kind. Since scientists were unable to identify any close relatives of this species, the team believes the mouse above represents an entirely new genus. Living nearly a mile above sea level, the rodent likely uses its tail and incisors to dig and carry dirt, suggesting it may be a burrower that lives on the forest floor.
Within the relatively small sample size of 42 leaf katydids captured during the expedition, scientists identified 20 new species, including the specimen pictured here. This particular pink-eyed katydid likely feeds on the flowers produced by the trees in the forests of Papua New Guinea. Like other katadids, this animal is restricted to the forest canopy, usually putting it beyond the reach of scientific study.
An orange spider, found in the Nakanai Mountains of New Britain, is only one of four new species within its particular genus. This new species is one of the approximately 100 new spiders identified by the research team.
This ant is not only a new species, but is so distinct that it may also be an entirely new genus. Found nearly a mile above sea level, it lives in the forest canopy, making the ant difficult to access and even harder to study.
Although this fruit bat had already been discovered, little is known about this still undescribed species. In fact, it doesn't even have a name yet! Researchers believe this animal is native to the hill forests, and, like other fruit bats, is probably an important seed disperser.
CI/photo by Stephen Richards
Like the fruit bat in the previous slide, this feather-tailed possum had already been discovered, but little is known about it. It also still doesn't have a name. This possum may have been trying to catch moths for food when researchers first spotted it. The structure of its tongue also suggests a diet that includes nectar.
This Rhododendron was so abundant and conspicuous that the researchers didn't have any trouble at all identifying it as a new plant. How could a plant that's so common have gone unknown for so long? Since this area of Papua New Guinea is so poorly understood, little is known even about the most frequently occurring species of plants and animals, let alone the ones in hiding. For this reason, Conservation International advocate programs to protect these remote hubs of biodiversity.