New Worlds here on Earth

1 Conversation

A list of animal groups

I've been extremely interested in the Wild Nature of the Earth since very early in my life. Living in South Africa, I'm fortunate to have visited some quite out-of-the-way places and seeing things few others have ever seen. It intrigues me that on a planet, seemingly crowded with over six billion people, such places still exist! Exist they do – and in many countries besides my own.

Such places are out there – large regions, like mountains, or forests – never before seen or described by us 'modern' folks ... and, in some cases, not even explored by the natives living in the region. When such places are at last explored, it is as if an entire new world is discovered! These remote wildernesses have a pristine and magical 'atmosphere' that is incredible to experience. And each is unique! Each turns up new species – trees, flowers, frogs, birds, mammals, and lots of invertebrates like butterflies or spiders – things that live there, and nowhere else. Species like that are called 'endemic': restricted to one particular area. Apart from endemic species, these 'hidden Edens' also frequently contain previously unknown populations of species we do know about. And – because the animals in these places often have never seen a human before – they can be extremely tame, and allow humans to approach closely and even touch them!

Here are only three places to have been discovered and explored very recently:

  1. Mount Mabu in Mozambique (a country in southeast Africa). This is not a very high mountain, reaching about 1 700 m, but around it is a rain forest of about 70 square km/7, 000 hectares, that is virtually undisturbed. This is the largest rain forest in Southern Africa, but until recently nobody outside the country even knew of its existence! Decades of civil war in Mozambique have discouraged exploration, but using Google Earth, people from the Royal Botanical Gardens in Kew 'discovered' the forest (it shows up clearly, distinct from the surrounding cultivated regions) and identified it as a likely hotspot for biodiversity. They sent a team to explore the forest in 2008. This turned up several new species of butterflies and frogs, a new species of adder, other probable new species of animals and plants, as well including a new orchid. The forest also hosts populations of at least seven known endangered bird species, such as Swynnerton's Robin and the Namuli Apalis (a tiny bird with a long tail – previously known only from a single other mountain, also in Mozambique).

    Read more and see some pictures on the BBC Sience and Nature website as well as on the Environmental Graffiti website.

    Make sure to go through the gallery of photos.

    I find the pygmy chameleons especially charming! There seems to be more than one species on Mount Mabu... at least one species of Rampholeon, as well as of Bradypodion. The Rampholeon pygmy chameleons have shortened tails and often mimic old, dry leaves. They mostly live on the ground, while Bradypodion is more arboreal. Both they both might turn out to be unique species.

    I am certain that, when the Kew people have properly examined the over 500 plant specimens they brought back, they will find more new species there as well.

  2. Mount Bosavi in Papua New Guinea. This is actually a collapsed volcanic cone, about 4 km wide and 1 km deep. A team sent in 2009 to explore this forested 'basin' discovered about 40 new species of plants and animals, including an incredible 16 new frog species; 3 species of fish - including one known as a 'grunter' for making noises with its swim bladder; several species of insects and spiders; a new bat; and a new giant woolly rat.

    Look at how tame that Cuscus is! It sits there quite tranquilly on the man's shoulder. Not a new species, but a new subspecies, of the Silky Cuscus. These mammals are marsupials, relatives of Koala Bears and Kangaroos.

  3. The Foja Mountains, in the Indonesian part of New Guinea. The local people apparently do not ever climb these mountains, nor enter over 3,000 square kilometres of pristine rainforest ... the first people known to visit the area did so in 1979, but it was only properly explored in 2005. This and subsequent explorations turned up a wealth of new species: a wholly new species of bird (the wattled smoky honeyeater), 20 frog species, four butterflies, five palms, and a new species of Rhododendron among others.

    The first expedition also saw some things for the first time although their existence was known: a kind of bowerbird with a golden crest, and a kind of six-wired Bird of Paradise . These birds were previously known to Science only from traded skins - now they saw them 'in the feather' for the first time ever!

    They also saw a rare kind of tree-living kangaroo - the first record of its species in Indonesian Papua - and long-nosed echidnas (a very strange kind of Monotreme, or egg-laying mammal) that were so tame they allowed themselves to be touched and picked up! Again, this indicates that these animals were totally unfamiliar with humans.

    The second expedition turned up a new species of giant rat – related to the Bosavi Giant Woolly Rat – and also a new species of pygmy possum.

There are various websites where you can read about the expeditions.

Here is an article about the Foja Mountains of Indonesia.

Here you can see some more photos.

These are just three. I am sure there are still many such 'worlds' out there that we humans still have to fully 'discover'. I am sure that each of the above three 'worlds' still have many surprises ... the explorations were just a few quick trips, and certainly additional explorations will turn up even more new species. ESPECIALLY of plants! We know the plant life of the Earth so poorly it's incredible.

In fact, there are probably new species of plants - as well as small animals such as insects - even in our own 'back yards' so to speak, only waiting to be seen and known. I am certain here where I live ... if I could only freely visit and explore some of the mountains over here ... there would be *dozens* of new plant species to discover!

And that's just on land. Imagine the many 'worlds' still to be discovered in the oceans!

At any rate, I'll continue my 'online explorations' and bring news of new animal and plant discoveries ... and if all goes well I'll also soon head out in the wild again for some *real* explorations of my own!"

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