Arlington, VA – Jumping spiders, a tiny
chirping frog and an elegant striped gecko are among more than 50 species
believed new to science discovered during a Conservation International (CI)
Rapid Assessment Program (RAP) expedition to Papua New Guinea’s highlands
The discoveries were announced today following analysis of
the species that were found in July and August of 2008 during a month-long
exploration of Papua New Guinea’s central mountains. CI scientists
were joined by scientists from Papua New Guinea and the University of British
Columbia (UBC) and Montclair State University to explore the region alongside
members of local communities.
IN DEPTH: The Discovering Species Site
photos of the species from this RAP expedition.
More than 600 species were documented during the
expedition. Of those, a total of 50 spider species, two plants,
three frogs and one gecko are believed to be new to science. The three frogs
include a tiny brown frog with a sharp chirping call (Oreophryne sp.), a
bright green tree frog with enormous eyes (Nyctimystes sp.), and a
torrent-dwelling frog that has a loud ringing call (Litoria
sp.). The gecko (Cyrtodactylus sp.) was the only
specimen of its kind found in the dense rainforest.
“The vast Kaijende Uplands and nearby valleys represent one
of Papua New Guinea’s largest undeveloped highlands wilderness areas, and all of
it is under the tenure of local clan landowners. These forests are
essential to their traditional lifestyles,” said CI scientist Steve Richards,
who led the expedition.
Local clan communities rely on this wilderness area for
hunting and collecting forest products, and the region is a critical source of
clean drinking water to tens of thousands of valley people living in the Enga
Southern Highlands, Sandaun and Western Provinces. Globally, this
vast forested wilderness is critical in helping slow climate change by
sequestering large amounts of the greenhouse gas carbon dioxide.
As part of the expedition, Montclair State University
anthropologist Dr. William Thomas worked with the local Hewa clans to document
the natural history and local knowledge of these resources as part of the
“Forest Stewards” project, an initiative started by Dr. Thomas and CI’s Dr.
“Dr. Thomas has devoted his professional life to the study of
the traditional knowledge system of the Hewa people. Their intimate knowledge of
and stewardship over a large tract of this vast upland wilderness has led to
conservation of their wildlife and environment. Dr. Thomas’s goal is to help the
Hewa continue this indigenous stewardship into the next century, for the good of
these people and the world at large,” said Beehler.
The discovery of three entirely novel genera from among the
spider species discovered is particularly noteworthy, said UBC scientist Wayne
Maddison, Director of the new Beaty Biodiversity Museum. “They are
strikingly distinctive evolutionary lineages that had been unknown before, with
a group that is already very distinctive on the evolutionary tree of jumping
spiders,” said Maddison. “Their key position on the evolutionary
tree will help us understand how this unique group of jumping spiders has
Much of Papua New Guinea’s vast wilderness remains unexplored
for scientific documentation. CI’s RAP program is planning three more
expeditions to the country in 2009 with the first beginning in early April.
The expedition was funded by Porgera Joint Venture (PJV),
principally owned by Barrick Gold Corporation. The resulting report will provide
information for decision makers trying to balance development with protecting
biodiversity that benefits local communities and the global
ecosystem. The findings will be used to inform future conservation
activities, the PJV mining operation, and development decisions by the local and
“This underlines how passionate we are about our
environmental responsibilities and we are pleased to be able to contribute
towards the discovery of new plant and animal life but more importantly, their
preservation for the future generations,” said Barrick General Manager Papua New
Guinea, Mark Fisher.
Since 1990, CI’s RAP program has conducted more than 60
expeditions to the far reaches of the globe, and discovered more than 700
species potentially new to science. A recently launched species discovery
initiative provides in-depth information about CI-led expeditions such as RAP
surveys and features some of the discoveries which include species potentially
new to science. The “Discovering Species”
site contains vibrant content which includes descriptions of the species
themselves – often by the scientists who made the discovery, photos of the
species, dispatches from scientists in the field, and downloadable survey
reports for those who wish to know more. Each month, more species are added as
the scientists continue to explore new places as well as catalogue their
previous discoveries. To learn more, visit www.conservation.org/discoveries.
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Photos of the species discoveries can be downloaded at: http://bitly.com/5JyWp
Conservation International (CI) applies innovations in
science, economics, policy and community participation to protect the Earth’s
richest regions of plant and animal diversity and demonstrate that human
societies can live harmoniously with nature. Founded in 1987, CI works in more
than 40 countries on four continents to help people find economic alternatives
without harming their natural environments. For more information about CI, visit