A fanged frog, a bright yellow snail and a blue lizard are among more than 1,060 new species recently found on the Melanesian island of New Guinea, environment group World Wildlife Fund said.
Among the new species discovered from 1998 to 2008 were 218 new kinds of plants (of which around 100 are orchids), 580 invertebrates, 134 amphibians, 2 birds, 71 fish (including an extremely rare 8-foot-long river shark), 43 reptiles and 12 mammals.
The bad news is that nearly all are at risk due to human activities, such as logging and forest conversion to agriculture.
“This report shows that New Guinea’s forests and rivers are among the richest and most biodiverse in the world. But it also shows us that unchecked human demand can push even the wealthiest environments to bankruptcy,” Neil Stronach, WWF Western Melanesia’s Program Representative, was quoted as saying in a press release.
He added, "If you look at New Guinea in terms of biological diversity, it is much more like a continent than an island. Scientists found an average of two new species each week from 1998 to 2008 –- nearly unheard of in this day and age."
Check out some of the recently discovered new species:
(Blue-eyed spotted cuscus (Spilocuscus wilsoni), Papua New Guinea. One new mammal species has been discovered in the region on average every year over the past ten years. The highest diversity of tree-dwelling marsupials in the world exists on New Guinea, with an incredible 38 species. One of these species, the Blue-eyed Spotted Cuscus (Spilocuscus wilsoni), a small possum endemic to Papua in Indonesia, was discovered in 2004. Copyright: © WWF/Tim Flannery)
(Monitor lizard (Varanus macraei), Papua New Guinea. The most striking new reptiles identified in New Guinea in the last decade are the three new monitor lizards discovered on tiny islands off the Vogelkop (Birdís Head) Peninsula of Papua in Indonesia. Varanus macraei, found on the island of Batanta and described in 2001, is one of the most spectacular reptile discoveries anywhere. Capable of reaching a metre in length, this beautiful species is black with a mesmerising pattern of turquoise and blue. Copyright: © WWF/Lutz Obelgonner)
(Wattled Smoky Honeyeater (Melipotes carolae), Papua New Guinea. In November 2005, a team led by Conservation International landed by helicopter into a lost world deep in the forests of New Guineaís mist-shrouded Foja Mountains in Indonesiaís Papua Province. Within minutes of arriving in this isolated range, the field team discovered a new bird species, the Wattled Smoky Honeyeater (Melipotes carolae). The entire Foja forest tract covers some 9,712 sq km and is the largest road-free tropical forest in the Asia-Pacific. People from nearby villages do not enter the uplands, in part because of inaccessibility, but also because the summits are considered sacred. What also helped the honeyeater elude discovery was its silent nature. The scientists never heard or recorded the species making a sound, a characteristic that separates Melipotes carolae from other honeyeaters.
Copyright: © WWF/Bruce Beehler)
(River Shark (Glyphis garricki), Papua New Guinea. The most extraordinary new freshwater discovery must be the new species of river shark, Glyphis garricki, discovered in 2008 in Port Romilly, Gulf District, Papua New Guinea. River sharks move along shorelines and can be found in some of Asia-Pacificís largest rivers, including the Indus, Irrawaddy and Ganges. Glyphis garricki is the sixth species of the elusive Glyphis genus to be described. The largest specimen recorded of this new species, also called the Northern River Shark, is 2.5m in length. Despite its large size, the species is seldom seen and it remains rare, leading scientists to list the new species as Endangered on the IUCN Red ListCadetia kutubu orchid, Papua New Guinea. Since its discovery, a total of 16 individuals have been recorded, scattered across localities off New Guinea and northern Australia.
Copyright: © WWF/Will White CSIRO Marine & Atmospheric Research)
(Cadetia kutubu orchid, Papua New Guinea. Expeditions by WWF scientists, between 1998 and 2006, have also added significantly to the known orchid diversity found on the island of New Guinea. Our teams collected some 300 species of orchids in Papua New Guineaís Kikori region. Eight of these were found to be new to science. They included Cadetia Kutubu, with a fleshy flower. Copyright: © WWF/Wayne Harris)
(Chilatherina Alleni rainbowfish, Papua New Guinea. New Guinea has some of the most beautiful freshwater fishes found anywhere, including gobies, gudgeons and rainbow fish. Rainbow fish are small but breathtaking in colour, varying from a single vivid colour to a spectrum. Between 1998 and 2008, no fewer than seven new species of rainbow fish have been identified in Papua New Guinea and Papua in Indonesia, including Chilatherina alleni or Allenís rainbow fish. Copyright: © WWF/G.R. Allen)
(Snail (Paryphantopsis misimensis), Papua New Guinea. The 580 new invertebrate species described between 1998 and 2008 have displayed a large variety of types. Nine new species of snails have been discovered, in the Louisiade Archipelago and the Owen Stanley Ranges in Papua New Guinea, including Paryphantopsis misimensis, an extraordinary brilliant bright yellow coloured snail found in 2006 in the forests of the Louisiade Archipelago. Copyright: © WWF/Fred Kraus)
(Giant Bent-Toed Gecko (Cyrtodactylus irianjayaensis). Some 43 new reptile species were discovered on New Guinea between 1998-2008: this includes 5 snakes, 37 new lizard species and a soft-shelled turtle. New lizards found in the decade 1998 to 2008 include 17 species of skinks, 12 geckos, 5 forest dragons and 3 monitor lizards. The Giant Bent-Toed Gecko (Cyrtodactylus irianjayaensis) was discovered by scientists in Indonesian New Guinea in 2001. Copyright: © WWF/Paul Ritchie)
(Dolphin (Orcaella heinsohni), Papua New Guinea. In the waters south of New Guinea, an unexpected discovery was made in 2005. The snub-fin dolphin, Orcaella heinsohni, was once thought to be a member of the Irrawaddy species of dolphin. However, researchers found that snub-fins have different coloration, skull, fin and flipper measurements. That makes them the first new dolphin species recorded for at least 30 years. A skull of the new dolphin species was collected from Daru, Papua New Guinea. Scientists believe these dolphins occur mainly in protected, shallow, coastal waters, specially adjacent to river and creek mouths. The expected range of O. heinsohni is the coastal zones of Australia and Papua New Guinea. Copyright: © WWF/Isabel Beasley)
(Butterfly (Delias durai), Papua New Guinea. The 580 new invertebrate species described between 1998 and 2008 have displayed a large variety of types. They include four Delias butterfly species from the Foja Mountains in Papua in Indonesia. These add to the already impressive list of butterflies and moths, topped by the largest butterfly in the world, the giant Queen Alexandra Birdwing, which has a wingspan of up to 30cm, and the Atlas moth, the worldís largest moth. Copyright: © WWF/Henk van Mastrigt)
(Damselfish Chrysiptera cymatilis, Papua New Guinea. New Guinea is centred in a region known as the Coral Triangle, which supports the most diverse marine ecosystems on Earth. In just 10 years, 33 new fish species have been discovered in the oceans surrounding the island, including the damselfish Chrysiptera cymatilis. This striking blue fish was found in the waters of Milne Bay, Papua New Guinea, a region of pristine reef environments and home to a huge number of fish species (1,040). Copyright: © WWF/G.R. Allen)
(Soft Coral with a cloud of schooling fairy basslets or anthias, New Britain, Papua New Guinea.
Copyright: © Jurgen Freund / WWF)
(Frog (Litoria dux), Papua New Guinea. A large green tree-dwelling frog, Litoria dux, was discovered on the northern side of the Huon Peninsula, a 16,500 sq km area of montane and lowland forest surrounded by ocean. The frogís name comes from the Latin dux, meaning leader, alluding to its bright coloration and impressive appearance, particularly its red iris. Copyright: © WWF/Stephen Richards)
New Guinea is the largest tropical island on Earth and is divided between the countries of Papua New Guinea in the East and Indonesia in the West. It contains the third largest tract of rainforest in the world after the Amazon and the Congo.
Although New Guinea covers less than 0.5 per cent of the Earth’s landmass, it shelters 6 to 8 per cent of the world’s species. Over two thirds of these species are found nowhere else on earth. It is an area that is nature rich, but money poor.
"As a region with high rates of poverty, it is absolutely essential that New Guinea's precious reefs, rainforests, and wetlands are not plundered but managed sustainably for future generations," said Susanne Schmitt, New Guinea Program Manager at WWF-UK.
She concluded, “Environmental protection and economic development must go together to ensure the survival of New Guinea’s unique species and natural habitats."
To read the entire full-color illustrated report, please Download New_guinea_new_species_2011