Researchers discover animals thought to be extinct
A unique egg-laying mammal thought to be extinct has been photographed for the first time in a rainforest. A team of scientists studied the fauna of the island of New Guinea and encountered dozens of undescribed species of insects, as well as newly discovered arachnids, amphibians and even shrimp that live in trees.
A scientific expedition to the Cyclops Mountain Range on the island of New Guinea discovered a mammal known as Attenborough's long-beaked echidna, named after journalist and naturalist David Attenborough. The animal has “the spines of a hedgehog, the snout of an anteater and the legs of a mole.”
“Because of its hybrid appearance, the animal takes its name from a creature from Greek mythology: half man, half snake,” biologist James Kempton commented on the discovery. from Oxford University, who led the expedition.
According to The Independent, researchers placed 80 camera traps at various altitudes in June and July and ultimately collected 14 photographs and four videos of the echidna. The results were uploaded to the bioRxiv website before being submitted to the journal for peer review.
Information about her lifestyle, habits and diet remains a complete mystery. What is known is that echidnas are difficult to find because they are nocturnal, burrow-dwelling, and generally very shy.
“To me, these are some of the most special animals on Earth. So it's really important to understand that it still lives in the Cyclops Mountains,” said Christopher Helgen, director of the Australian Museum Research Institute.
For many years, the echidna was thought to be endangered or extinct because the only scientific record was made from photographs dating back to 1961.
This species is one of five living orders of oviparous mammals, along with the platypus and other echidna species. According to scientists, such animals separated from the common ancestors of other mammals about 200 million years ago. Only they lay eggs and feed their young with milk through pores in the skin.
The discoveries don't end there, The New York Times reports. In the forest at the top of the Cyclops Mountains, researchers also discovered an unusual type of shrimp, little larger than grains of rice. “These crustaceans were everywhere, including on trees, moss, rotting logs and even under rocks,” expedition entomologist Leonidas-Romanos Davranoglu told the expedition’s lead entomologist. He also added that “the strange creature is capable of jumping up to a meter in the air to avoid encounters with predators.”
There are about nine other species of land-based shrimp, all of which live near the shore and are known as beach hoppers. The team of researchers “were quite shocked to find this shrimp in the heart of the forest, because it is not a typical habitat for these animals.”
Worldwide, there are more than 2,000 “lost species” of plants and animals whose presence in our world has not been recorded for the past 10 years. “It is literally vital to know whether such species exist because human activity is accelerating the extinction of species,” admits biologist Dr Kempton.
Scientists discovered another member of the “lost species” on the top of a mountain when they spotted a pair of Myra's honeyeaters, live birds with curved beaks and long tails that have not been documented for 15 years.
The researchers also discovered a previously unknown cave system, despite life-threatening conditions created by extremely inhospitable terrain, poisonous animals, blood-sucking leeches, malaria, earthquakes and the region's sweltering heat.
Local residents of the village of Yunsu Sapari, on the north side of the mountains, including two guides, played a critical role in the success of the search for the species and the correct placement of camera traps, according to sociologist Madeleine Foote. Local students also received training in biodiversity research during the trek.
As Western media reported, during the project, the head of the expedition, Dr. Davranoglu, broke his arm in two places, a team member contracted malaria, and another had a leech attached to his eye for a day and a half before it was finally removed.
Biologist Kempton emphasizes that “while some may describe the Cyclops mountain range as a 'Green Hell,' I think the landscape is magical, both enchanting and dangerous , like something out of a Tolkien book.”
Much of the Cyclops Mountains is a nature reserve, but the surrounding rainforest faces threats such as logging for agriculture, logging and mining. Co-founder of Yappenda, a conservation and research foundation, Ian Kobak, who helped organize the expedition, acknowledged that such research will help protect the flora and fauna of the area: “I really hope and believe that this will be a catalyst for strong conservation of the Cyclops mountain range.”