More Than 1,000 New Species Discovered in Papua New Guinea

October 13, 2011
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Vivid violet fish, round-nosed dolphins and lizards with turquoise spots were some of the 1,060 news species discovered on Papua New Guinea between 1998 and 2008, according to the World Wildlife Fund (WWF).

The discoveries include 218 new plant species, nearly half of which are orchids, 43 reptiles and 12 mammals, 580 invertebrates, 134 amphibians, two birds and 71 fish. Scientists averaged two species discoveries each week over the 10 years — practically unheard of today.

The report proves that the environment on the island, which is the largest tropical island on Earth, is among the richest and most biodiverse in the world, making nature travel there exciting and one of a kind. Covering less than 0.5 percent of the Earth's landmass, Papua New Guinea hosts between six and eight percent of its species.

The deep blue damselfish, Chrysiptera cymatilis, was found in 1999 living in the Coral Triangle of Papua New Guinea. This region supports the most diverse marine ecosystems on Earth. The turquoise lizard, discovered on the island of Batanata off of the Peninsula of Papua in 2001, looks as though its black scales are set with the opaque blue-green mineral native to the American Southwest.

The snub-fin dolphin was discovered in 2005. After researchers determined that it was not a member of the Irrawaddy dolphins because of its coloration, skull shape and flipper measurements, it became the first new dolphin species found anywhere in over 30 years.
Other mammal discoveries included a new type of tree kangaroo and a blue-eyed spotted cuscus, a small possum.

While the WWF praised the biological wealth of the island, it also warned that poorly planned, unsustainable human activity such as logging and land conversion is putting the creatures at risk. Independent studies showed that between 1972 and 2002, 24 percent of rainforests were cleared or degraded. Other studies suggested that 70 percent of the logging in the forests of Papua New Guinea is illegal. In addition, the demand for palm oil has led to oil palm monocultures in the forests, depriving certain species of their habitats.

The WWF argues that environmental protection and economic development must work hand-in-hand in Papua New Guinea to sustain the island's unique species.


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