Lost World Found

By Alice Orszulok

Scientists have ventured into a remote part of Australia  and have discovered three new species in the process.

Conrad Hoskin, a tropical biologist at James Cook University, has long been fascinated with the Melville Range, a small mountain range on Cape Melville in far northeastern Australia. This is partly because the area is so isolated and difficult to get to because of the house-sized boulders surrounding it; there was no telling what kinds of new and exotic creatures could be hiding behind those walls!

By using satellite imagery, Hoskin knew that on top of the rugged mountain peaks was a rainforest that quite possibly hadn’t been touched for thousands of years. Tim Laman from National Geographic became interested and together they set out to explore the area after being dropped off by helicopter.

It wasn’t long before the researchers found a new species of skink (a type of lizard), which they named the Cape Melville shade skink, Saproscincus saltus. Shortly after they discovered the blotched boulder frog (Cophixalus petrophilus) and the Cape Melville leaf-tailed gecko (Saltuarius eximius).

“Finding three new, obviously distinct vertebrates would be surprising enough in somewhere poorly explored like New Guinea, let alone in Australia, a country we think we’ve explored pretty well,” Hoskin reported to National Geographic. “The top of Cape Melville is a lost world. Finding these new species up there is the discovery of a lifetime—I’m still amazed and buzzing from it.”

Although the three species are unique in their own ways, the newfound gecko received the most attention, being described by Hoskin as “spectacular” and something “very cool.” Patrick Couper from the Queensland Museum who helped describe the gecko added that: “The Cape Melville leaf-tailed gecko is the strangest new species to come across my desk in 26 years working as a professional herpetologist. I doubt that another new reptile of this size and distinctiveness will be found in a hurry, if ever again, in Australia.”

Hoskin and the National Geographic team are planning another, longer, expedition to the Cape Melville range soon. “There’s still a big world out there to explore,” he says. For more amazing images from the expedition, check out the gallery here.

Source [National Geographic]