Camouflaged on the rainforest floor, lurking in the long grass or skittering across volcanic rocks are hundreds of cold-blooded Papua New Guinea inhabitants just waiting to make a name for themselves.
This is the home of legless lizards, bright spotted geckos and almost mythic dragon lizards that are only just beginning to grace the pages of scientific journals due to the unique ecosystems and remoteness of the region.
So, let’s venture deep into the wilderness of Papua New Guinea to peel back the rainforest veil on some of the most recent lizard discoveries who call this pacific nation home.
A brave old world
With its complex geological history and relatively untouched ecology, the islands of Papua New Guinea have allowed a host of reptile species to evolve undisturbed for thousands of years.
For scientists, it’s a place where yet to be described cold-blooded discoveries await. In fact, over 1000 new species of animals and plants have been documented in the region in the past 20 years alone including 43 new reptiles between 1998 and 2008.
“It’s probably one of the least studied worldwide and one of the most rugged, remote places and the most biodiverse. If you go to Papua New Guinea (PNG) and you look, you will find a new species,” Professor Corey Bradshaw told The Conversation in 2011.
So, here’s just a couple of the bright, beautiful prices that are new to PNG’s lengthy lizard list.
A million-year-old monitor
Featuring a black body with yellow spots and blue tail, it comes as somewhat of a surprise that a 1m long monitor lizard could roam the earth for one million years and remain undiscovered until recently.
But in 2012, that’s exactly what researchers found scrambling the remote island of Mussau.
Here, the Varanus semotus dines royally on crabs, small birds and eggs, caring little whether he’s seen or heard.
The Bent-toed gecko
Usually renowned for their sticky-footed feats, the Bent-toed variety of gecko instead boasts slender curved toes, and two new members of this 200-strong species were found last year in PNG.
One is the aptly named C-Rex who ranks as one of the largest geckos in the world. Also bearing a name of nobility is his recently documented cousin, the Knight gecko. He too is large, measuring around 14cm, and both are found in the lower regions of northern New Guinea.
The Bumblee Gecko
Meanwhile, on Manus Island a smaller beauty is among the latest species of note. Here the black and yellow Bumblebee Gecko has long been known to locals and appears to live nowhere else.
And then there’s the dragons, legless lizards, and more, with the islands and mainland believed to accommodate 114 reptile species that are endemic to Papua New Guinea.
The vast array includes 170 types of lizards and an additional 100 skink varieties. It’s a world beckoning to be explored, protected and slowly discovered as nature continues to offer up tiny and large lizards of wonder.
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