Feb
08
2006

A new Eden in New Guinea?


New Guinea map: Map of New Guinea, showing location of discoveries.

Scientists exploring a remote mountain rainforest in New Guinea report discovering a surprising number of animal and plant species—some quite rare, and others never seen before. Among their discoveries were 20 new species of frogs, four new types of butterflies, five new species of palms, and a newly-discovered bird. Many other plants and animals found in the region are extremely rare—in some cases, this was the first time they were ever seen inside Indonesia.

To see photos of some of the newly-discovered species, go here

The area has no native human population. In fact, the scientists believe their expedition may have been the first time humans ever visited this particular place. Many of the animals walked right into the camp, indicating they had not learned to fear human presence.

Indonesia is a hotspot for biodiversity. In fact, the country of Indonesia has more different species of animals than the entire continent of Africa! Why is Indonesia's wildlife so rich?

  1. It's tropical, lying right on the Equator. Sunlight provides energy for tremendous plant growth, which provides abundant resources for animals.
  2. It's a chain of islands, more than 13,000 in all. Plants and animals isolated on islands often evolve into new species, found nowhere else on Earth.
  3. It's also mountainous. Mountains and valleys create barriers that prevent plants and animals from spreading out. Again, isolated populations will sometimes evolve into new species.
  4. It straddles Wallace's line. Alfred Wallace, a contemporary of Darwin's, and sometimes credited as the co-discoverer of natural selection, noticed that animals in eastern Indonesia were similar to those in Australia, while animals in western Indonesia were more similar to those in Asia. Later scientists realized that plate tectonics and high sea levels had kept those two continents separate for millions of years, allowing entirely different types of animals to evolve. It's only been fairly recently—in geological terms—that the two landmasses came close together in the country we now call Indonesia.

Your Comments, Thoughts, Questions, Ideas

Arwen Starfire's picture
Arwen Starfire says:

Actually, there is no need to worry for the present about the animals becoming extinct because Indonesia designated the area a wildlife santuary over twenty years ago.

posted on Mon, 05/08/2006 - 6:22pm
Anonymous's picture
Anonymous says:

I wonder how many of them will become extinct now that we've found them..........

posted on Thu, 02/09/2006 - 5:55pm
bryan kennedy's picture

I also worried about this. But this also gives us (humanity) an opportunity to protect the area before a logging company moves in and destroys the area. However, I suspect that it is so hard to get to that nature has done a good job of protecting these animals itself.

posted on Fri, 02/10/2006 - 11:14am
Anonymous's picture
Anonymous says:

Why had no locals ever explored it? Do the tribals fear that land for some reason, or is it just too remote for them to access?

posted on Sun, 02/12/2006 - 9:57pm
Gene's picture
Gene says:

According to news reports, the local people found plenty of food and game at lower elevations, and never had any need to climb the rugged mountain terrain where these species were found.

The link in the original post is now truncated. Here's another version of the news story that was still working as of Feb. 12. And here's the story as told by National Geographic.

posted on Mon, 02/13/2006 - 8:52am
Gene's picture
Gene says:

More new species are being discovered in other parts of the globe. On the African island of Madagascar, researchers from the California Academy of Sciences have discovered nine new species of assassin spiders. (Check out the cool photo!) Closer to home, biologists have found one new fish species and 20 new types of seaweed in the Caribbean.

posted on Wed, 02/15/2006 - 2:05pm
justice dodson's picture
justice dodson says:

hmm....i hope thy find more.we need more animals.too many are becoming extinct.

posted on Mon, 08/21/2006 - 1:23pm
Anonymous's picture
Anonymous says:

the things in New Guinea are beautiful

posted on Sat, 06/02/2007 - 11:20am
Gene's picture
Gene says:

Scientists continue to discover new species in the region.

posted on Mon, 05/17/2010 - 4:17pm

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