May 17, 2010

‘Pinocchio’ Frog And More Found In Indonesia

An international team of researchers reported Monday on the discovery a new frog species found while camping in the Foja mountains of Indonesia.

Herpetologist Paul Oliver spotted the frog sitting on a bag of rice in the campsite.

Upon further inspection, the team discovered it to be an unknown type of long-nosed frog and dubbed it "Pinocchio."

When the frog is calling, its nose points upward, but it deflates when the animal is less active.

"We were sitting around eating lunch," Smithsonian ornithologist Chris Milensky told the Associated Press (AP). Oliver "looked down and there's this little frog on a rice sack, and he managed to grab the thing."

"Herpetologists (experts in snakes, lizards etc.) have good reflexes," Milensky observed. "He also caught a gecko, he managed to just jump and grab the thing off a tree."

The frog is not the only new thing they found.

The researchers report finding the smallest kangaroo yet, a big woolly rat, a three-toned pigeon and a gargoyle-like, bent-toed gecko with yellow eyes.

The Foja mountains are in the western side of the island of New Guinea, a part of Indonesia that most been unexplored by scientists.

The environmental group Conservation International began investigating the area, along with the support of the National Geographic Society and Smithsonian Institution.  The results of their 2008 expedition were announced on Monday.  Milensky said the expedition was incredibly difficult.

"It was extremely wet, heavy downpours every day," he said. "The camp just turned into a complete mud bog."

Kristofer M. Helgen, curator of mammals at the Smithsonian's National Museum of Natural History, told AP that one of the most amazing animals the researchers observed was the rare golden-mantled tree kangaroo.

He said that most people think of kangaroos as creatures that live on the flatlands on Australia, but this one has adapted to forest life.

"It can jump into a tree and scurry right up it," Helgen told AP. "But on the ground it hops around like any kangaroo."

Helgan also discovered what may be the smallest member of the kangaroo family, a tiny wallaby that also has adapted to forest life.

He said that New Guinea and Australia were once connected and so have similar life forms, but they have adapted differently in each place.

The researchers said that ornithologist Neville Kemp made another big discovery by spotting a pair of new imperial pigeons that have feathers on different parts of their body that appear rusty, whitish and gray. 

The research was part of Conservation International's Rapid Assessment Program where teams came together to spend three or four weeks making surveys of the biology of selected areas.

The June issue of National Geographic magazine has a feature on this expedition.

"While animals and plants are being wiped out across the globe at a pace never seen in millions of years, the discovery of these absolutely incredible forms of life is much needed positive news," Bruce Beehler, a senior research scientist at CI and participant on the expedition, said in a statement.

"Places like these represent a healthy future for all of us and show that it is not too late to stop the current species extinction crisis," he said.


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