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Uncharted Territory: Scientists Discover New and Incredible Species

A portrait of a Tree frog (Leptopeles flavomaculatus), one of 33 species of frogs recorded on the Cheringoma Plateau (Piotr Naskrecki)
A portrait of a Tree frog (Leptopeles flavomaculatus), one of 33 species of frogs recorded on the Cheringoma Plateau (Piotr Naskrecki)

It’s every scientist’s dream to travel to a remote, unexplored place looking for as many new and interesting species as they can find. This was a dream come true for the 15 Mozambican and international scientists, led by Piotr Naskrecki, who spent 3 weeks in the Cheringoma Plateau of Gorongosa National Parkin Mozambique. There couldn’t have been a more adventurous setting for this expedition than the sheer limestone cliffs, studded with deep caves, cascading down to the lush riverine forest and rushing streams of the gorges below. The scientists’ mission was to collect and record information on the species of this region to help park managers understand and protect Gorongosa’s biodiversity.

Scientist Jennifer Guyton releasing bats caught during the survey after having taken their body measurements. (Piotr Naskrecki)
Scientist Jennifer Guyton releasing bats caught during the survey after having taken their body measurements. (Piotr Naskrecki)

In total, the team recorded over 1,200 species (and counting) including 182 bird species, 54 mammal species, 47 reptile species, 33 frog species, over 100 antspecies, and 320 plant species. Some of the notable finds on the survey were the “Chewbacca Bat”, named after the Star Wars character; a strange, cave-dwelling frog that is possibly new to science; an ant that is incapable of walking on flat surfaces; a bombardier beetle that defends itself by producing small explosions from its abdomen; and several katydids that are new to science.

A portrait of the “Chewbacca bat” (Triaenops persicus) recorded during the survey of the Cheringoma Plateau. (Piotr Naskrecki)
A portrait of the “Chewbacca bat” (Triaenops persicus) recorded during the survey of the Cheringoma Plateau. (Piotr Naskrecki)

 

Tumbling ant (Melissotarsus emeryi) is the world’s only ant incapable of walking on flat surfaces. This species spends its live inside narrow passage deep in the wood of trees and can only move by pushing its short legs below and above the body at the same time. (Piotr Naskrecki)
Tumbling ant (Melissotarsus emeryi) is the world’s only ant incapable of walking on flat surfaces. This species spends its live inside narrow passage deep in the wood of trees and can only move by pushing its short legs below and above the body at the same time. (Piotr Naskrecki)

 

Bombardier beetle (Cerapterus lacerates) produces small, audible explosions by expelling volatile, highly reactive chemicals from its abdomen (Piotr Naskrecki)
Bombardier beetle (Cerapterus lacerates) produces small, audible explosions by expelling volatile, highly reactive chemicals from its abdomen (Piotr Naskrecki)

The scientists used a variety of methods on the survey including pitfall traps, mist nets, pheromone traps, remote cameras, and ultrasonic sound detectors. They explored uncharted territory in Gorongosa, descending into caves in deep limestone gorges, and ascending the tall canopies of trees using advanced tree climbing and rappelling techniques.

Nhagutua, an unexplored limestone gorge in the northern part of the Cheringoma plateau (Piotr Naskrecki)
Nhagutua, an unexplored limestone gorge in the northern part of the Cheringoma plateau (Piotr Naskrecki)

This was the first comprehensive biodiversity survey in the history of this 4,000sqkm  protected area, and its results will help guide the restoration effort to reverse biodiversity losses suffered by the park during the armed conflicts that devastated Mozambique from 1975 until 1992. By understanding what species exist in Gorongosa, park management can make better decisions about how to protect the park’s biodiversity and its rare and threatened species.

The Wilson Biodiversity Laboratory, in honor of E.O. Wilson’s support, is a modern science laboratory scheduled to open in Gorongosa soon. Specimens collected during the survey will form the foundation of a biological research collection that will be housed in the lab. And information collected by the survey’s scientists will contribute to the park’s biodiversity database, a tool that helps manage and protect its natural resources.

Sylvan katydid (Acauloplax exigua), a species found for the first time in over 100 years since it was originally described (Piotr Naskrecki)
Sylvan katydid (Acauloplax exigua), a species found for the first time in over 100 years since it was originally described (Piotr Naskrecki)
Flap-necked chameleon (Chamaeleo dilepis) from the Cheringoma Plateau (Piotr Naskrecki)
Flap-necked chameleon (Chamaeleo dilepis) from the Cheringoma Plateau (Piotr Naskrecki)

 

A portrait of a slender praying mantis (Idolomorpha dentifrons) from the Cheringoma Plateau. (Piotr Naskrecki)
A portrait of a slender praying mantis (Idolomorpha dentifrons) from the Cheringoma Plateau. (Piotr Naskrecki)

Comments

  1. Jimbo Hawkins
    Texas, USA / Afghanistan
    August 4, 2013, 4:00 am

    I’m working in Afghanistan and I found that beautiful Praying Manits on one of my job sites ! Everyplace I visit I try to find some kind of insect to place on my head for a photo and I was lucky to have found this little guy. They are amazing little creatures to watch!!!

  2. Chris Loxley-Ford
    Hertford, England
    July 15, 2013, 10:07 am

    What a pioneering mission this is – and an almost endless variety of new flora and fauna to be discovered ! Excellent looking results so far !!

  3. DLM
    Chesapeake Bay, VA
    June 30, 2013, 10:18 pm

    There are many plateaus and all are unique. Stunning photography!

  4. Constanza Sánchez
    México
    June 28, 2013, 12:35 pm

    Se me puso la carne de gallina de placer al ver tanta maravilla.

  5. Mike
    June 27, 2013, 5:15 pm

    Beautiful!

  6. 103David
    SF Bay
    June 27, 2013, 4:18 pm

    Considering what we find on our own planet, can we even begin to imagine what we’ll find on the next planet…if we can get it together to go see what we find there.
    Hope so.

  7. Susan Mobbs
    Australia
    June 27, 2013, 4:17 pm

    Amazing Photos. I wonder what else is waiting to be discovered?

  8. BITWIN
    ALGER
    June 27, 2013, 8:26 am

    GOOD JOB

  9. Hernando
    USA
    June 27, 2013, 12:25 am

    What a wonderful example of evolution taking its course…beautiful!

  10. doni
    austin,tx
    June 25, 2013, 11:14 pm

    That Mantis! They found the inspiration behind Alien!!

  11. Roberto Rizzo
    México
    June 21, 2013, 6:10 pm

    Bueno saber que no todo en el mundo son especies extintas.

  12. Sarvagya
    India
    June 20, 2013, 4:17 am

    Nature evolves every day :)

  13. adeel
    pakistan
    June 19, 2013, 9:42 pm

    amazing species very good work done

  14. Daniel
    Addis Ababa, Ethiopia
    June 19, 2013, 5:53 am

    Gross but so amazing creatures. Great job for the scientists!

  15. Abdelkader Bakhti
    Tunisia
    June 19, 2013, 3:59 am

    I love that. Praise the creator almighty.

  16. Kraisiri
    Bangkok
    June 19, 2013, 1:38 am

    Absolutely wonderful!!!!

  17. copy editor
    Australia
    June 19, 2013, 1:25 am

    rappelling

  18. John Ross Castano
    Philippines
    June 19, 2013, 12:39 am

    Ahhh… the power of evolution…

  19. edward cantablabrian
    uragy
    June 11, 2013, 8:28 pm

    the worst part is that my bum is just like a bombadier beetle.

  20. Nasah (USA)
    June 8, 2013, 10:28 pm

    That praying Mantis is from from alien planet.

  21. Matt Chase
    Maywood NJ
    June 7, 2013, 11:52 pm

    Fantastic!

  22. RenHe Chen
    Taiwan
    June 6, 2013, 8:43 pm

    How amazing nature is !

  23. Gary
    Here
    June 6, 2013, 5:56 pm

    Wow! Great pictures! I can add these to my pokedex!

  24. Christian Ladebu
    Conneaut Lake, Pa
    June 6, 2013, 5:23 pm

    Extremely Fascinating!

  25. mmspr
    Puerto Rico
    June 6, 2013, 4:41 pm

    Beautiful!! Imagine all the others just waiting (or not!) to be discovered.

  26. Tegan Christie
    Gilbert, AZ
    June 6, 2013, 3:57 pm

    This is so amazing. I cannot wait to finish my degree and hopefully do something like this one day!

  27. fry
    June 6, 2013, 2:57 pm

    bullshit, hypnotoad was already discovered.

  28. Nichole Alvarez
    Glendale az
    June 6, 2013, 1:35 am

    wonderful, absolutely amazing new specimens… great job explorers.

  29. Nichole Alvarez
    Glendale Az
    June 6, 2013, 1:34 am

    Absolutely amazing, amazing really and truly amazing. Cant say anything more other than most spectacular job.