Jun 27
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In the News: Over 1000 new species discovered in New Guinea

A remarkable 1,060 new species were discovered on the island of New Guinea between 1998 and 2008, according to a WWF report. 

Photo of Allen's rainbowfish

Allen’s rainbowfish, just one of the 38 new freshwater fish discovered in New Guinea.

New Guinea’s rich biodiversity 

The report, entitled “Final Frontier: Newly discovered species of New Guinea (1998 – 2008)”, lists 12 new mammal species, together with 2 birds, 43 reptiles, 134 amphibians, 71 fish and an incredible 580 invertebrates. It also lists 218 new plants, of which nearly 100 are orchids. 

Among the newly described mammals are an endemic marsupial, the blue-eyed spotted cuscus (Spilocuscus wilsoni), as well as a new species of snub-fin dolphin (Orcaella heinsohni), and a long-beaked echidna named in honour of Sir David Attenborough, Zaglossus attenboroughi. Other discoveries include a metre-long turquoise and black monitor lizard, a 2.5 metre-long river shark, and several new colourful ‘rainbow fish’. 

Photo of Huon tree kangaroo in canopy

New Guinea has the highest diversity of tree-dwelling marsupials in the world, including this Huon tree kangaroo.

Such is the extent of New Guinea’s biodiversity that new species are still being found. For example, a BBC expedition in 2009 to the Southern Highlands of Papua New Guinea discovered at least 40 new species, including a new species of woolly giant rat. Since 2008, over 100 more species have been described from New Guinea, and many more have yet to be discovered.

Unique species under threat 

The largest tropical island on Earth, New Guinea contains the world’s third largest tract of rainforest after the Amazon and Congo. Divided between the countries of Papua New Guinea and Indonesia, this diverse island covers less than 0.5% of the Earth’s total land area, but is home to around 6 to 8% of the planet’s species. Over two thirds of these are found nowhere else. New Guinea also possesses Asia’s most pristine rivers and wetlands, and is surrounded by rich reefs with the highest numbers of coral and reef fish species in the world. 

If you look at New Guinea in terms of biological diversity, it is much more like a continent than an island,” says Dr Neil Stronach, WWF Western Melanesia Programme Representative. “Scientists found an average of two new species each week from 1998 – 2008 – nearly unheard of in this day and age.” 

Photo of Albericus siegfriedi, dorsal view

Albericus siegfriedi, discovered in 1999.

However, the report highlights the growing threats to New Guinea’s rich biodiversity. The island’s forests are being lost at an alarming rate, to logging, mining, road construction and conversion to agriculture, particularly oil palm plantations. Around a quarter of Papua New Guinea’s rainforests were cleared or degraded between 1972 and 2002, and invasive species, wildlife trade and unsustainable fisheries present further threats. 

This report shows that New Guinea’s forests and rivers are among the richest and most biodiverse in the world. But it also shows us that unchecked human demand can push even the wealthiest environments to bankruptcy,” says Dr Stronach. 

Photo of long-beaked echidna

Four species of echidnas inhabit New Guinea, including three species of long-beaked echidna.

Conserving New Guinea’s unique species 

According to the WWF report, there is still time to protect New Guinea’s flora and fauna, as well as its amazing cultural diversity. For example, certification schemes for timber may go some way towards protecting New Guinea’s forests, and there is potential to boost the capacity of local communities to protect their lands and resources. 

As a region with high rates of poverty, it is absolutely essential that New Guinea’s precious reefs, rainforests, and wetlands are not plundered but managed sustainably for future generations,” says Dr Susanne Schmitt, New Guinea Programme Manager at WWF-UK. “Environmental protection and economic development must go together to ensure the survival of New Guinea’s unique species and natural habitats.” 

Photo of a male Queen Alexandra's birdwing

New Guinea holds many species world records, including the world’s largest butterfly, the Queen Alexandra’s birdwing.

The WWF report concludes, “It’s vital that New Guinea’s forests, rivers, lakes and seas are managed in a way that ensures they’ll continue to sustain economic and social development – and support the island’s fabulous wildlife. If we’re to safeguard this ‘final frontier’, it’ll require active partnerships between New Guinea’s communities and a wide range of stakeholders.”  

Read the full story and WWF report: WWF – More than 1000 new species found in New Guinea

As part of its 50th Anniversary, WWF-UK is celebrating the remarkable new species being encountered across the world each year in a short film, ‘Astonish Me’.  A magical tale of adventure and discovery, the film has been created by acclaimed writer and director Stephen Poliakoff.  WWF-UK and the ARKive project have been working together to find film clips and photos of just some of these amazing, newly discovered, species to feature in ‘Astonish Me’.

Read more about ‘Astonish Me’ and, if you live in the UK, find out how you can enter WWF-UK’s competition to win a once-in-a-lifetime conservation experience to Monterey, California. 

View photos and images of species from New Guinea on ARKive

Liz Shaw, ARKive Species Text Author 

Jun 27
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ARKive’s Top Ten Action Shots

Being a part of the human species, we are all used to being movers, shakers, dancers, runners, jumpers – the list of our talents is endless! But to be honest, some of our counterparts in the animal kingdom are much greater risk takers and adrenalin junkies. I have jumped between countries, dived between eco-regions and leapt between species, to put together ARKive’s top ten action shots. 

Jumping

American black bear photo

Looks like this particular American black bear finally found that fish it had been playing hide-and-seek with all morning! Despite the black bear’s typically slow-moving, lumbering gait, it can move at great speed when necessary, and is capable of climbing trees and even swimming.

Catching

Photo of a male panther chameleon catching insect prey

 

Male panther chameleons are the fashionable sex of the species, boasting bright colors such as vivid pink or turquoise and often including a hugely variable patterning of coloured bands, stripes and spots all in an attempt to attract females. Their ability to capture prey can also be considered flamboyant! The incredible muscles in their tongue, along with its sticky mucous and vacuum-like tip, snatch prey quickly and effectively.

Leaping

Common tree frog photo

Its name might have the word “common” in it, but this common tree frog is anything but. From its bright, lime green skin to its incredible ability to snatch prey, any princess would be lucky to smooch it.

Flying

Philippine flying lemur photo

The Philippine flying lemur is a rather obscure species because it actually cannot fly and it is not technically a lemur either. It has a gliding membrane that stretches from the side of its neck to its fingers and toes, and then down to its tail. This kite-shaped animal can glide through a forest for about 100m. Don’t worry for its safety though; this small mammal has super vision for accurate landings!

Pouncing

Photo of a juvenile cheetah hunting springbok

Cheetahs are the fastest land mammals on Earth. They use their non-retractable claws to better grip the ground as they move. But rather than show you yet another photo of a cheetah sprinting, here is one illustrating their ability to use their speed to precisely pounce on their prey.

Snatching

Photo of a kingfisher exiting water with fish

Despite its vivacious and iridescent plumage, the kingfisher is incredibly shy and rarely seen. It mainly feeds on fish and invertebrates, which it catches by perching on a convenient branch or other structure overhanging the water, and plunging into the water when suitable prey comes within striking distance. Their unique beaks were used as a model in train engineering, an excellent example of biomimcry (the examination of nature for inspiration in order to solve human problems).

Playing

Photo of a Japanese crane playing with snow

The Japanese crane is the second rarest crane species in the world. They are highly regarded as sacred symbols of fidelity, good luck, love and long life in Asian countries. Their wingspan can stretch to almost 150cm (5 ft)! During winters, when not using their “walk and peck” technique for foraging, they’re seen having frequent snowball fights!

Diving

Photo of common terns diving for fish

Common terns are very protective of their food, which consists mostly of fish. You would not want to be a part of a school of fish when they’re around! Dense food sources attract flocks of over 1,000 individuals. Male terns also have an appetite for love – they are known to continually supply their chosen female with fish before mating.

Spitting

Photo of a Mozambique spitting cobra spitting venom

The Mozambique spitting cobra is one snake you do not want to anger. As a defense mechanism, this cobra spits venom onto its attacker. This species is primarily found in countries, like Mozambique, South Africa, and Zimbabwe, in grassland and moist savannah habitat.

Swimming

Photo of an immature saltwater crocodile swimming underwater, exhaling

Full-grown, saltwater crocodiles can reach up to 7m (23ft) long, making it the largest of all crocodilian species and the largest reptile in the world. This crocodile is a magnificent swimmer and like other crocodiles, has its eyes, ears, and nose located on the top of its head, allowing it to be almost completely submerged while in water. In addition, there is a valve in the back of its throat that enables it to open its mouth underwater without water entering the throat. This obviously does not impede its ability to blow air out of its nose!

Do you know of any other ARKive action heroes or have a favorite action shot within the ARKive collection? Let us know if you do!

Shelley Alingas, Program Assistant, Wildscreen USA

Jun 24
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ARKive’s Guide to Glastonbury

Festival season is now underway and today sees the first bands and artists take to the stage at Glastonbury, the UK’s most legendary music festival. Here at ARKive we have decided to share our top festival tips, with a little help from some real party animals!

Pack your tent

Unless you plan on sleeping under the stars, you’ll need somewhere to rest your weary head after a hard days revelling. If you need some inspiration before you pitch up, just take a look at this masterpiece created by the Vogelkop bowerbird. Strangely there is no sign of him though, he must still be partying in Shangri-La…

Vogelkop bowerbird photo

Prepare to get muddy, very muddy…..

It’s a fact of the festival season, you can’t have Glastonbury without mud, and lots of it! You might as well embrace it like this African buffalo has done, it can work wonders for the skin, protect you from the sun and even get rid of a few pesky parasites, although hopefully you don’t have too many of those!

African buffalo photo

Unleash your inner hippie

Glastonbury undoubtedly has a hippie heritage, and that vibe is still going strong today. When you are in need of some chill out time, take a word of advice from the psychedelic frog fish and head over to the Healing Field for some spiritual TLC.

Psychedelic frog fish photo

Get your dancing shoes on

There’s no excuse! With all that great music, you simply have to dance the night away. Tap your feet, shake those hips, get your hands in the air and throw some shapes! Make sure you get your friends in on the action too, just like these greater flamingos.

Greater flamingo photo

Avoid those toilets

While some animals like the white rhinoceros may delight in defecating on well-used dung-piles known as ‘middens’ to mark their territory, I would advise all festival-goers to avoid camping anywhere near the rather pongy port-a-loos. When nature finally does call, all you can do is hold your breath and hope for the best….

White rhino photo

Catch some Zzzzz

With all that partying late into the night, it is important that you make sure you are well rested during the day. Find a quiet spot to have a snooze and top up your energy levels, or you could end up crashing out early and missing the action like this sleepy gentoo penguin chick.

Gentoo penguin photo

Make a plan

With so many great acts to see over the weekend, you’ll need some sort of timetable to make sure you don’t miss your favourites. Get in touch and let us know who you are most looking forward to seeing! Is it Fleet Foxes, The WombatsAloe Blacc or perhaps Noah and the Whale? I’m pretty excited about Beeyoncé myself….

Honey bee photo

Claire Lewis, ARKive Media Researcher

Jun 24
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In the News: Serengeti highway cancelled

In what is being hailed as a victory for conservationists and the wildlife of the Serengeti, the Tanzanian government has cancelled plans for a controversial highway that would have dissected the Serengeti National Park. 

According to scientists, the road would have severed the migration route of 1.5 million wildebeest and a half million other antelope and zebra, with indirect impacts, such as poaching and new development, exacerbating the situation. 

The mass migration of the Serengeti’s wildebeest is one of nature’s true wildlife spectacles, occurring no where else on the planet. It also brings in important tourism revenue to the relatively impoverished region.

Photo of eastern white-bearded wildebeest herd migration

Wildebeest herd migration

The State Party confirms that the proposed road will not dissect the Serengeti National Park and therefore will not affect the migration and conservation values of the property,” reads a statement from the Tanzanian Ministry of Natural Resources and Tourism. 

A leaked government environmental impact study agreed with the findings of a recent scientific study that the road would ‘limit’ the Serengeti migration and damage predator populations (such as lions, hyaenas, cheetahs, leopards and crocodiles) due to a declining prey base. 

The government estimated that by 2015, the road would carry 800 vehicles a day, mostly trucks, and that by 2035, 3,000 vehicles a day would be using the route – an average of one vehicle every 30 seconds. 

“[The road's cancellation] is a wise and insightful decision by the Tanzanian Government,” said Andrew Dobson, one of the authors on the study. 

It will ensure the long-term persistence of the Serengeti ecosystem and its world famous wildebeest migration, while also providing infrastructure to the people who live to the East of the Serengeti. It allows Tanzania to show great leadership to other African nations, by illustrating that the way to economic success in the 21st Century is to balance natural resource conservation with economic development.”

Photo of blue wildebeest jumping into river during migration

Wildebeest jumping into river during migration

The Tanzanian government’s official stance on the road was that it would connect remote Serengeti communities in the north to commercial centres. However, plans for the road had drawn criticism from the UN and the U.S. government, as well as the German government, who offered to pay for local roads for cut-off people in the northern Serengeti region. The World Bank also offered to pay for an alternative route circumventing the park. 

In the statement on the road cancellation, the Tanzania government says it is now considering the alternative southern route.

Photo of blue wildebeest line moving through savannah

Wildebeest line moving through savannah

A battle has been won, but the struggle to save the Serengeti goes on. Roads will still be constructed up to the edges of the park. The pressures on the Serengeti, including a commercial corridor to Uganda, still exist. The highway across the Serengeti has been proposed three times now, and can be raised again. But yes, let’s congratulate ourselves on the work we’ve done,” reads a statement from the NGO Serengeti Watch

View more images and videos of blue wildebeest on ARKive. 

View other species found in Tanzania on ARKive

Alex Royan, ARKive Species Text Author

Jun 23
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In the News: Major study reveals Ocean’s ‘hotspots’

75 scientists have compiled 10 years’ worth of data on the migration patterns of 23 of the Pacific Ocean’s major species, including blue whales, bluefin tuna, sharks and albatrosses, to reveal two oceanic ‘hotspots’ that are teeming with marine life.

These two vast areas in the North Pacific Ocean, one off the west coast of the United States and the other between Hawaii and Alaska, provide migration corridors for large marine predators chasing seasonal concentrations of prey. These biological hotspots, rich in life, have been described as ‘marine counterparts of East Africa’s Serengeti plain’.

Photo of blue whale underwater

Blue whale

Chasing down predators 

Between 2000 and 2009, the 23 marine species were tracked using electronic tags, to record their movements and the water conditions around them, including temperature, salinity and depth. In total, the programme deployed 4,306 electronic tags, yielding 1,791 individual animal tracks, and resulting in 265,386 days’ worth of tracking data. 

This ambitious work is being hailed as the largest ever ‘biologging’ study. 

The result is the most comprehensive view to date of how top predators follow and find the biological hotspots of the sea as seasons shift. The findings are published today in Nature

It is like asking, ‘How do lions, zebras and cheetahs use Africa as a whole continent?’, only we have done it for a vast ocean,” said Barbara Block, a marine scientist at Stanford University in California and lead author of the paper. 

We have had single-species papers before on a lot of the migration patterns, but they have never been put together as a whole.”

Photo of shortfin mako swimming in open ocean

Shortfin mako swimming in open ocean

Migration highway 

Records from the tags show two ‘hotspot’ regions where the predators’ migration routes concentrate in the North Pacific, which act like a trans-oceanic migration highway. 

These are the oceanic locations where food is most abundant, and that’s driven by high primary productivity at the base of the food chain. These areas are the savannah grasslands of the sea,” added Block. 

Upwelling nutrient-rich cold waters create an abundance of plankton, which itself supports huge swarms of krill, the founding layer of the marine food chain. This brings in many other predators, including those that feed directly on the krill like blue whales, to those that are after the fish that also feast on the krill, such as bluefin tuna

The results also showed that slightly different preferences for water temperature prevent closely related species (e.g. salmon sharks, white sharks and mako sharks) from treading on one another’s fins. Many species with very long migratory paths, such as yellowfin tuna, bluefin tuna, white sharks, elephant seals and salmon sharks, were also found to faithfully return from their migration to the same region every season.

Photo of northern bluefin tuna shoal

Northern bluefin tuna shoal

The study data has left scientists excited, “we can now predict when and where individual species are likely to be,” said Daniel Costa, an ecologist at the University of California, Santa Cruz, and a co-author of the paper. 

The ability to map the ocean’s main predators’ migration paths allows conservationists to focus their efforts to protect and conserve the biodiversity of the hotspots. 

Block says that “knowing where and when species overlap is valuable information for efforts to manage and protect critical species and ecosystems”. 

Read the paper in nature – ‘Tracking apex marine predator movements in a dynamic ocean 

Alex Royan, ARKive Species Text Author

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