(New to science, previously observed) This is a previously seen but still undescribed species endemic to Papua New Guinea- observed by Conservation International’s Rapid Assessment Program (RAP) researchers in 2009.
Twenty years of field studies have resulted in the discovery of many new species and more information on rare species. Conservation International’s (CI) Rapid Assessment Program (RAP) has done hundreds of expeditions to far-flung and little known areas of the world and found 1,300 new or rare species during their assessments.
To mark the 20-year milestone, Still Counting…, edited by Leanne Alonso, is a new book that celebrates the work done so far and the work that continues to be done by RAP. CI has chosen 20 species that are biologically unique, threatened or rare, designating them as “RAP Stars” to mark the 20 years of field work. Let’s take a look at them!
20. Satanic Leaf Tailed Gecko
(NOT new to science) Uroplatus phantasticus, The Satanic Leaf-tailed Gecko, was observed on a Conservation International RAP survey in Mantadia-Zahamena corridor of Madagascar in 1998.
The aptly named Satanic Leaf-tailed Gecko is one of 12 species of these bizarre geckos, is very camouflaged, and lives only in undisturbed forest. Endemic to Madagascar, these geckos are extremely sensitive to all the common habitat destruction that takes place there.
19. The Peacock Katydid
(NOT new to science) The Peacock katydid (Pterochroza ocellata) observed on a Conservation International Rapid Assessment Program (RAP) expedition to Guyana’s Acarai Mountains in 2006.
This large and beautiful katydid has two defense strategies it uses. The first is to mimic a damaged leaf, lying still in the leaf litter. If that doesn’t work, it jumps up and down spreading its wings, which you can see look like two eyes, and thus tries to trick the predator into thinking it is a bird attacking.
18. The Walking Shark
NEW SPECIES: Walking shark (Hemiscyllium galei). Discovered on a Conservation International Rapid Assessment Program (RAP) expedition in Cenderawasih Bay, Indonesia in 2006.
This unusual shark prefers to spend its time in the flats of coral reef areas. Despite the name, it can swim, even doing displays above the reefs, but quickly returns home to the flats to feed on shrimp, crabs and mollusks. As it is a new species, there is still a lot to learn about the walking shark; hopefully it is not as rare as it seems.
NEW SPECIES: Atewa dinospider (Ricinoides atewa) – this ancient arachnid was found during a 2006 expedition to Ghana’s Atewa Range Forest Reserve (Atewa) led by Conservation International’s Rapid Assessment Program (RAP).
This Dinospider comes from a family that goes back over 300 million years, almost unchanged. Looking like a cross between a spider and a crab, the male carries his sex organs on his legs, and eats termites and ant larvae.
16. Nyctimystes sp.
NEW SPECIES: Nyctimystes sp. A large tree frog, approximately six inches/15 cm, with enormous eyes was found next to a clear running mountain river during a RAP expedition of Papua New Guinea’s highlands wilderness in 2008.
Nyctimystes are known for a unique pattern of veins, dots or lines on their lower eyelids, probably for camouflage purposes when resting. They spend their time in the rainforest and lay eggs on submerged rocks. The tadpoles have suckers that allow them to graze algae buildup on rocks and other flat surfaces. Unfortunately, as they are rarely seen, not to much is known about this beautiful frog.
Image: © Bruce Beeler
15. Smoky Honey-Eater
NEW SPECIES: A new species of Smoky honeyeater, discovered on a Conservation International RAP expedition to the Foja Mountains of Papua province, Indonesia, on the island of New Guinea – 2005.
This gorgeous bird is unique with its orange bare skin patch around its eyes and pendant wattle. It eats fruit and insects, contributing to the regulation of the insect population. It is fairly common in the Foja Mountains, a quiet bird not given to vocalizations.
Image: © Jessica Deichmann
14. ET Salamander
NEW SPECIES: ET salamander, Bolitoglossa sp. nov; Disocovered on a Conservation International RAP expedition to Ecuador in 2009.
Sometimes nature is stranger than fiction. This salamander looks awfully like our little friend ET and was found high in the rainforest of southern Ecuador. These salamanders have webbed feet and no lungs because they breathe through their skin.
13. The Conservation International (CI) Blattodean
NEW SPECIES: The Conservation International (CI) Blattodean (Simandoa conserfariam).
Named for Conservation International, this beetle is known only from one cave in Guinea’s Simandou Range, where it was found by a CI RAP expedition in 2002. Its eating habits are of note, as it consumes giant fruit bat guano (droppings), helping to recycle the nutrients found in the droppings. Perhaps not as exciting as a mammal, it and other beetles have a vital role in the ecosystem, often overlooked, performing services such as recycling.
12. Fish-hook Ant
(NOT new to science) Fish-hook Ant observed on Conservation International’s (CI) Rapid Assessment Program (RAP) expedition to the Virachey National Park, Cambodia, 2007.
This fascinating ant has a huge curved spine that slices through skin and stays hooked for some time. Few predators want to attack these ants as they have not only this individual defense; when they swarm out of the nest when attacked they hook together into a bunch. This makes it very difficult for the predator to get a single ant alone, and of course it still has to deal with all the hooks.
Image: © David Monticelli
11. Gola Malimbe
(Not new to science) Gola Malimbe – Malimbus ballmanni.
This Upper Guinea endemic was observed in mixed-species flocks in Diecke Forest, southeast Guinea, during a Conservation International (RAP) survey in 2003. The beautiful Gola Malimbe is also known in Sierra Leone, Liberia and Cote D’Ivoire, and a study has been started by the photographer to research why the bird seems to only be found in very, very small ranges in the forest. So far eight nests have been found and the birds are being followed carefully by the researchers to try to find answers.
Image: © Klaas-Douwe B. Dijkstra
10. Dragonfly Platycypha eliseva
NEW SPECIES: Dragonfly Platycypha eliseva, discovered on a Conservation International (RAP) survey in DRC 2004.
A gorgeous dragonfly, the male Platycypha eliseva has a yellow abdomen and red forelegs giving it a dashing look. These dragonflies are a great indicator of water quality as they need clean water. They are predators of the mosquito, keeping their numbers down, and are often used by the health community to help reduce malaria and other mosquito-borne diseases.
9. The RAP katydid
NEW SPECIES: The RAP katydid (Brachyamytta rapidoaestima) – discovered on a Conservation International Rapid Assessment Program (RAP) survey in Ghana and Guinea.
Hiding on the underside of leaves, this species of katydid lies in wait for its hapless prey to land on the leaf, whereupon it attacks and eats them. Males communicate with females using ultrasonic sound at levels the human ear cannot hear.
Image: © Phil Willink
8. Pseudancistrus kwinti
This catfish was uncovered during a a Conservation International Rapid Assessment Program (RAP) survey in Suriname, 2005.
Named Pseudancistrus kwinti after the indigenous people in the area, this sucker-mouthed catfish can cling to rocks and other objects in fast water. It has a unique ability to rotate its upper and lower jaw to feed on algae lining rocks as well as mollusks and other detritus.
7. Strumigenys tigris
(NOT new to science) Strumigenys tigris. Observed on Conservation International’s (CI) Rapid Assessment Program (RAP) expedition to PNG Muller Range, Sept 2009.
This tiny ant is only 2 mm long but is ferocious and lightning fast at catching prey. It walks around with its mouth and mandibles wide open to snatch the prey on the move. The ant’s striking coloring is great for blending into the rotting sticks it lives in.
6. Paracheilinus nursalim
NEW SPECIES: Paracheilinus nursalim, was discovered on a Conservation International(RAP) expedition in West Papua, Indonesia in 2006.
The males of this incredible fish have an amazing courtship display every afternoon, regular as clockwork – an hour before sundown – where they flash these electric colors to attract the females. The males are active in parental care, guarding the eggs and at times the larvae.
5. Goliath Bird Eating Spider
(NOT new to science) Goliath bird eating spider (Theraphosa blondi).
The largest spider in the world, this creature’s leg span can be 30 cm long and it can weigh more than 1/4 pound! Contrary to its name, the Goliath Bird Eating Spider normally eats invertebrates but has been seen eating lizards, small mammals and snakes. It has a unique defense mechanism: not only is it mildly venomous but it has little sharp barbed hairs all over its body. When attacked, the spider rubs them off its tummy, creating a cloud of micro barbs that stick into and onto the predator.
4. Emperor Scorpion
(NOT new to science) The Emperor scorpion (Pandinus imperator).
The Emperor scorpion is bright blue under UV light and is one of the largest scorpions in the world. This scorpion eats termites and other small insects, and even though it has venom, it is not that dangerous to humans. Compounds in the scorpion’s venom are being tested, however, as a possible drug for heart arrhythmia, and its blue beta-carbolines are studied to better understand the protein degeneration that leads to cataracts.
Image: © Tim Laman
3. Pinocchio Frog
NEW SPECIES: The frog (Litoria sp. nov.), which was discovered on a Conservation International Rapid Assessment Program (RAP) expedition to the Foja Mountains of Papua province, Indonesia in 2008.
Often called the “Pinocchio” frog, this little fellow has a long nose-like protuberance that inflates upwards when calling but deflates downwards at other times. This find was a case of being in the right place at the right time: the researcher saw him sitting on a bag of rice in camp!
2. Chinchilla Tree Rat
NEW SPECIES: Chinchilla Tree Rat, Cuscomys ashaninka. Found in Cordillera de Vilcabamba, Peruvian Andes, southeast Peru – 1997.
This toothy creature was found during a combined RAP and Smithsonian expedition, near the famous Incan ruins of Macchu Picchu. What makes it an extra special discovery is that it is the only one of the genus, which means more species could be nearby.
These rodents are related to the chinchilla tree rats found buried beside the Incan people in their tombs.
1. Tube-nosed Fruit Bat
(New to science, previously observed) This is a previously seen but still undescribed species endemic to Papua New Guinea – observed by Conservation International’s RAP
This incredible bat bears an uncanny resemblance to Yoda from Star Wars. As yet unnamed, he was “officially” discovered during an expedition to Papua New Guinea (PNG) in 2009. Fruit bats are important to the ecosystem as they distribute seeds around the forest floor in their droppings during their flights for food. This pretty creature is likely endemic to PNG and lives in the hilly forests of the country.
“It’s been an amazing adventure,” said Alonso, who has coordinated and gone on RAP expeditions for the last 13 years. “Despite the pressures we put on nature, it continues to mystify, inspire and teach us with a wealth of hidden treasures and ecosystem services that people rely on, and that we’re still only beginning to understand.”
It is hard to underestimate the importance of the RAP surveys with so many species found and so much knowledge gained, which helps develop conservation plans. Hopefully another 20 years will result in as much success as the first 20.