Aussie Lost World Yields New Species

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Every now and then scientists discover a new plant or animal species that they never knew existed. A recent discovery of a "lost world" in Australia has led to the discovery of several different new species. Three new vertebrate species isolated for millions of years were discovered on the Cape Melville mountain range on Cape York Peninsula, including a leaf-tail gecko, a gold-colored skink and a brown-spotted, yellow boulder-dwelling frog.

The team of scientists who made the discoveries were led by Dr. Conrad Hoskin. The mountain area is only accessible by helicopter, which has prevented people from ever seeing these new animals before.

"We're talking about animals that are ancient — they would have been around in the rainforest of Gondwana... rainforest that's been there for all time," said Dr Hoskin.

Dr. Hoskin said he has been aware of the area for several decades and had always wanted to take a team to it. Google Earth allowed him to see what the mountain range looks like from above and several other angles and helped him prepare for the trip. Dr. Hoskin and his team found more than they had ever hoped. They found a unique ecosystem with animals begging to be discovered.

"I was just walking around along the ridge line and there was this small lizard, a skink, that was something completely new," he said. The second I saw the gecko I knew it was a new species. Everything about it was obviously distinct."

Dr. Hoskin and his team plan to visit the mountain range again in the next few months to collect and study other species, including insects and reptiles.

"All the animals from Cape Melville are incredible just for their ability to persist for millions of years in the same area and not go extinct. It's just mind-blowing," Hoskin said.

Image from Wikimedia Commons.

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