Friday, October 8, 2010

Pleased to meet you


Allow me to introduce you to Nyctimene (1st image), a tube-nosed fruit bat a.k.a. the Yoda bat. This charming new species is making his public debut after being discovered in Papua New Guinea in 2009. He has some incognito cousins in the mountainous forests of Vietnam; the foothills of the Himalayas; and the lowland rain forests of the Philippines. Less camera-shy are his relatives in the wet tropics of North Queensland, Australia (2nd image, Eastern tube-nosed bat) and the dense lowland forest of Indonesia.

Scientists made this guy's acquaintance in a rapid assessment survey of the relatively inaccessible Muller Range in central-western Papua New Guinea, where they camped at 500m, 1600m, and 2875m. "As we flew in to land the helicopter in a montane meadow, zooming into this spectacular landscape, it was an incredible realization, knowing that no scientist has ever been there before," said team leader Stephen Richards, who flew with his crew in a small aircraft to a remote airstrip and then traveled by dugout canoe, by foot, and then by helicopter to get to their destination. It was worth the trouble: they discovered 200+ new species of plants and animals.

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