A Nose for Fruit
This tube-nosed fruit bat is just one of the roughly 200 species encountered during two scientific expeditions to Papua New Guinea in 2009—including a katydid that “aims for the eyes” and a frog that does a mean cricket impression, Conservation International announced late Tuesday.
Though seen on previous expeditions, the bat has yet to be formally documented as a new species, or even named. Like other fruit bats, though, it disperses seeds from the fruit in its diet, perhaps making the flying mammal crucial to its tropical rain forest ecosystem.
In all, the expeditions to Papua New Guinea’s Nakanai and Muller mountain ranges found 24 new species of frogs, 2 new mammals, and nearly a hundred new insects. The remote island country’s mountain ranges—which have yielded troves of new and unusual species in recent years—are accessible only by plane, boat, foot, or helicopter.
The Muller Range expedition spent a week at each of three camps, each at a different elevation. Around each camp, the scientists found entirely new animals.
New Species Blends In
Camouflaged in a Muller Range forest on Papua New Guinea, a new leaf katydid species peers pinkly at the camera in 2009. The animal likely eats flowers in the forest’s tall trees, researchers said.
During one of the so called rapid assessment programs (RAPs)—quick expeditions involving “dream teams” of top scientists—Piotr Naskrecki and David Rentz collected 42 leaf katydids. At least 20 of those are new species, according to Conservation International.
Of the roughly 120 katydids—leaf katydids and others—the researchers collected, at least 40 are new species, Naskrecki said. “That’s a very high number even for a tropical, fairly unexplored area.”
A “Most Exciting” Find
Unlike most of its relatives, which chirp at night, this new, 0.8-inch-long (2-centimeter-long) frog species sends out its mating calls right after afternoon storms.
The unnamed species was the “most exciting and surprising herpetological discovery” of the Nakanai RAP, herpetologist and RAP team leader Stephen Richards said in a statement—the amphibian belongs to a group of frogs previously documented in only the Solomon Islands, hundreds of miles to the east.
A huge-headed “major” ant of a thorny new species collects food from smaller workers in Papua New Guineau’s Muller Range during a 2009 expedition. The majors use their muscular jaws to crush seeds that the smaller workers bring back to the nest.
Like other species in the Pheidole genus, the newfound ants are all divided into workers and majors, and the new species is very opportunistic, RAP director and Conservation International entomologist Leeann Alonso told National Geographic News.
“Some ants have a specialized diet,” Alonso said. But the new ants “catch live insects, scavenge for dead insects and seeds. …”
The new species was also the first to discover the crumbs researchers had inadvertently dropped near camp. “That’s actually one of the best ways to find ants,” she said. “Sit down there, drop some food on the ground, and wait for them to come.”
Tiny New Frog
A frog small enough to sit on a thumbnail rests on a leaf in Papua New Guinea’s Muller Range in 2009.
This species “nearly eluded the RAP team altogether,” as the scientists had to search the forest floor in pouring rain to trace the sound of the “soft, scratching, cricket-like” call, according to a Conservation International statement.
The frog and all its closest relatives are found only on the island of New Guinea.