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Scientists discover hundreds of new species in a "mist shrouded lost-world"


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#1 Scorch

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Posted 07 February 2006 - 03:44 AM

http://news.independ...ticle343740.ece

An astonishing mist-shrouded "lost world" of previously unknown and rare animals and plants high in the mountain rainforests of New Guinea has been uncovered by an international team of scientists.

Among the new species of birds, frogs, butterflies and palms discovered in the expedition through this pristine environment, untouched by man, was the spectacular Berlepsch's six-wired bird of paradise. The scientists are the first outsiders to see it. They could only reach the remote mountainous area by helicopter, which they described it as akin to finding a "Garden of Eden".

In a jungle camp site, surrounded by giant flowers and unknown plants, the researchers watched rare bowerbirds perform elaborate courtship rituals. The surrounding forest was full of strange mammals, such as tree kangaroos and spiny anteaters, which appeared totally unafraid, suggesting no previous contact with humans.

Bruce Beehler, of the American group Conservation International, who led the month-long expedition last November and December, said: "It is as close to the Garden of Eden as you're going to find on Earth. We found dozens, if not hundreds, of new species in what is probably the most pristine ecosystem in the whole Asian-Pacific region. There were so many new things it was almost overwhelming. And we have only scratched the surface of what is there." The scientists hope to return this year.

The area, about 300,000 hectares, lies on the upper slopes of the Foja Mountains, in the easternmost and least explored province of western New Guinea, which is part of Indonesia. The discoveries by the team from Conservation International and the Indonesian Institute of Sciences will enhance the island's reputation as one of the most biodiverse on earth. The mountainous terrain has caused hundreds of distinct species to evolve, often specific to small areas.

The Foja Mountains, which reach heights of 2,200 metres, have not been colonised by local tribes, which live closer to sea level. Game is abundant close to villages, so there is little incentive for hunters to penetrate up the slopes. A further 750,000 hectares of ancient forest is also only lightly visited.

One previous scientific trip has been made to the uplands - the evolutionary biologist and ornithologist Professor Jared Diamond visited 25 years ago - but last year's mission was the first full scientific expedition.

The first discovery made by the team, within hours of arrival, was of a bizarre, red-faced, wattled honeyeater that proved to be the first new species of bird discovered in New Guinea - which has a higher number of bird species for its size than anywhere else in the world - since 1939. The scientists also found the rare golden-fronted bowerbird, first identified from skins in 1825. Although Professor Diamond located their homeland in 1981, the expedition was able to photograph the bird in its metre-high "maypole" dance grounds, which the birds construct to attract mates. Male bowerbirds, believed to be the most highly evolved of all birds, build large and extravagant nests to attract females.

The most remarkable find was of a creature called Berlepsch's six-wired bird of paradise, named after the six spines on the top of its head, and thought "lost" to science. It had been previously identified only from the feathers of dead birds.

Dr Beehler, an expert on birds of paradise, which only live in northern Australia and New Guinea, said: "It was very exciting, when two of these birds, a male and a female, which no one has seen alive before ... came into the camp and the male displayed its plumage to the female in full view of the scientists."

Scientists also found more than 20 new species of frogs, four new butterflies, five new species of palm and many other plants yet to be classified, including what may be the world's largest rhododendron flower. Botanists on the team said many plants were completely unlike anything they had encountered before.

Tree kangaroos, which are endangered elsewhere in New Guinea, were numerous and the team found one species entirely new to the island. The golden-mantled tree kangaroo is considered the most beautiful but also the rarest of the jungle-dwelling marsupials. There were also other marsupials, such as wallabies and mammals that have been hunted almost to extinction elsewhere. And a rare spiny anteater, the long beaked echidna, about which little is known, allowed itself to be picked up by hand. Dr Beehler said: "What was amazing was the lack of wariness of all the animals. In the wild, all species tend to be shy of humans, but that is learnt behaviour because they have encountered mankind. In Foja they did not appear to mind our presence at all.

"This is a place with no roads or trails and never, so far as we know, visited by man ... This proves there are still places to be discovered that man has not touched."

Inhabitants of New Guinea

Birds

The scientists discovered a new species - the red faced, wattled honeyeater - and found the breeding grounds of two birds of almost mythical status - the golden- fronted bowerbird and Berlepsch's six-wired bird of paradise, long believed to have disappeared as a separate species. The expedition also came across exotic giant-crowned pigeons and giant cassowaries - a huge flightless bird - which are among more than 225 species which breed in the area, including 13 species of birds of paradise. One scientist said that the dawn chorus was the most fantastic he had ever heard.

Mammals

Forty species of mammals were recorded. Six species of tree kangeroos, rare elsewhere in New Guinea, were abundant and the scientists also found a species which is new to Indonesia, the golden-mantled tree kangeroo. The rare and almost unknown long-beaked echidna, or spiny anteater, a member of a primitive group of egg-laying mammals called monotremes, was also encountered. Like all the mammals found in the area, it was completely unafraid of humans and could be easily picked up, suggesting its previous contact with man was negligible.

Plants

A total area of about one million hectares of pristine, ancient, tropical, humid forest containing at least 550 plants species, many previously unknown and including five new species of palms. One of the most spectacular discoveries was a so far unidentified species of rhododendron, which has a white scented flower almost six inches across, equalling the largest recorded rhododendron flower.

Butterflies

Entomologists among the scientists identified more than 150 different species of butterfly, including four completely new species and several new sub-species, some of which are related to the common English "cabbage white" butterfly. Other butterflies observed included the rare giant birdwing, which is the world's largest butterfly, with a wingspan that stretches up to seven inches.

Frogs

The Foja is one of the richest sites for frogs in the entire Asia-Pacific region, and the team identified 60 separate species, including 20 previously unknown to science, one of which is only 14mm big. Among their discoveries were healthy populations of the rare and little-known lace-eyed frog and a new population of another frog, the Xenorhina arboricola, which had previously only been known to exist in Papua New Guinea.


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#2 Ikohn4ever

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Posted 07 February 2006 - 03:53 AM

thats really sweet, cant wait to see some pics. Also I hope it stays isolated for awhile. Oh and where is my "lost" world of dinosaurs already, I think I have been waiting long enough
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#3 mykevermin

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Posted 07 February 2006 - 03:54 AM

Hmm...makes me think of the mist dragon from Final Fantasy IV.
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#4 Run4Fun

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Posted 07 February 2006 - 03:56 AM

That sounds pretty awesome. I wonder if this article is legit?
On a side note, Jared Diamond is a professor of geography at UCLA. He probably never returned to study the area because he had since switched to his new department from evolutionary biology.

#5 Scorch

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Posted 07 February 2006 - 03:58 AM

Changed "mammals" to "species" in the thread title. Dunno why I put mammals in the first place.

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#6 thagoat

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Posted 07 February 2006 - 04:01 AM

mist shrouded, eh? sounds like the beginning to jurassic park 3.

#7 Technique

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Posted 07 February 2006 - 04:03 AM

I wrote a report a while back about this or something very similar. Very interesting stuff.

#8 Graystone

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Posted 07 February 2006 - 04:03 AM

That would be awesome. Being around all of those animals, not knowing if one would touch you and you die. Also being able to name them, and say I discovered 50 new plants, mammal, and birds.

#9 ericx

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Posted 07 February 2006 - 04:08 AM

crazy shit
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#10 JimmieMac

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Posted 07 February 2006 - 05:02 AM

Man, I can't wait till thy open a McDonald's up there so the tourists have some place to eat.

#11 alonzomourning23

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Posted 07 February 2006 - 05:08 AM

It's not always a good thing when they stumble on this stuff. It opens the possibility for the area to be damaged.
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#12 bobo2k4

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Posted 07 February 2006 - 05:10 AM

Can't wait till King Kong shows up.
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#13 Soodmeg

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Posted 07 February 2006 - 05:33 AM

No pics though? Were they not allowed to take a picture of anything?

Still cool as hell though....there is so much stuff we dont know about.

#14 Stice

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Posted 07 February 2006 - 05:39 AM

Yeah, now I'm dying to see some pictures. Yes, actually DYING.

#15 RedvsBlue

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Posted 07 February 2006 - 05:43 AM

No pics though? Were they not allowed to take a picture of anything?

Still cool as hell though....there is so much stuff we dont know about.


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#16 RacinReaver

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Posted 07 February 2006 - 05:48 AM

I remember seeing a thing on PBS about bowerbirds a few months back. They're really amazing birds building these giant structures with crazy symmetry and designs going on. They're actually pretty reminiscent of the monolithic structures that early civilizations would build. I'm actually pretty curious to see what kind of structure the birds they found built.

#17 vietgurl

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Posted 07 February 2006 - 09:20 AM

That's pretty sweet. I hope the area doesn't become a tourist hotzone in the future. It sounds pretty nice, not having the animals be afraid of humans.
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#18 HOTSHIET

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Posted 07 February 2006 - 11:44 PM

I read the same article on LAtimes.com and it was really fascinating, makes me want to be a scientist instead of a desk jockey!

#19 The Successful Dropout

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Posted 07 February 2006 - 11:48 PM

they just showed pictures on my local news station...their has to be pictures online somewhere
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#20 ryanbph

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Posted 08 February 2006 - 12:07 AM

great to hear, would be nice with pictures...

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#21 LinkinPrime

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Posted 08 February 2006 - 12:22 AM

they just showed pictures on my local news station...their has to be pictures online somewhere


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#22 depascal22

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Posted 08 February 2006 - 01:07 AM

Sounds awesome. Except for the fact that someone left their Baby Ruth wrapper up there. There goes the last pristine place on the planet. Guess thle only place left is the local library, because as we all know, no one ever goes there. I even hear they have the mythical "micro-fiche". It's how people looked up what happened one hundred years ago without using *gasp* the Internet. It truly is a lost kingdom of biodiversity and knowledge.

#23 Prepster

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Posted 08 February 2006 - 05:41 AM

Wow, this is amazing, can't wait to see some pictures.



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#24 Moxio

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Posted 08 February 2006 - 05:45 AM

This is too much like Final Fantasy IX.

#25 willardhaven

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Posted 08 February 2006 - 05:49 AM

It's nice to know there are still undiscovered territories out there.

Beware the black mages.

"The rare and almost unknown long-beaked echidna."

It's the floating island from Sonic!

#26 Kaijufan

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Posted 08 February 2006 - 06:10 AM

Interesting. I look forward to seeing some pictures.
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#27 mojoman5165

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Posted 08 February 2006 - 06:24 AM

http://news.yahoo.co...HYzBHNlYwN0bXA-
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#28 mr ryles

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Posted 08 February 2006 - 06:42 AM

meh,the only thing I liked was that spiked ant eater, talk about evolution.

I wanna thank all the televisions out there that raised me.


#29 Zenithian Legend

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Posted 08 February 2006 - 06:49 AM

hopefully they find monster island next
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#30 suko_32

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Posted 08 February 2006 - 06:53 AM

I demand pictures!!!!!! I want to see these new discoveries!!! I want to see them more than I want to see...well i really want to see them.

Edit: I see pics!
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