Scientists discover 200 new species in Papua New Guinea

This feather-tailed possum was known to scientists but had previously not been categorised in a scientific survey. Image: Conservation International

A thumbnail-sized frog, a new genus of mouse and an orange spider are among the 200 new species that have been discovered or categorised for the first time in the mountain ranges of Papua New Guinea.

Also found were nine new plants, two new mammals, 24 frog species, about 100 spiders and nearly 100 insects that included katydids, dragonflies, damselflies and ants. The discoveries were made during two surveys by Conservation International’s Rapid Assessment Program (RAP) of the Muller Range and Nakanai Mountains of Papua New Guinea in 2009.

One of the new species, a white-tipped tailed mouse, was found at a high elevation site (1590m) in the Nakanai Range. The mouse bears some resemblance to the tree mice of New Guinea; it is believed to have no known relatives and may represent a new genus entirely.

Another highlight from the Nakanai Mountain Range was the 2cm long ceratobatrachid frog, who calls for mates in late afternoons rather than at night. The RAP team leader, Stephen Richards, described this as an exciting and surprising discovery, as the ceratobatrachid belongs to a group of frogs previously found only on the Solomon Islands.

The Muller Survey in September 2009 revealed an abundant new species of rhododendron, an emerald-green katydid (Mossula sp.nov) and a pink-eyed katydid (Caedicia) that lives in the forest canopy. Another species of katydid, the sharp-legged katydid (Mossula sp.nov), was described as having an unusual and painful defence mechanism, as it holds its legs above its head to jab at predators.

These findings are a good indication of the Papua New Guinea ecosystem’s health, but the area is under threat from logging, subsistence agriculture and palm oil plantations. The Conservation International scientists hope that the discoveries of the new species will aid the nomination of these areas for World Heritage status.

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