Astonishing Discoveries Inside Remote Volcano

     I love tales of discovery, and here is one that has been hailed as one of the greatest wildlife discoveries of all time.

     Last year, for the first time ever, scientists were able to make their way down into an extinct volcano caldera on the Pacific island of New Guinea.  For years scientists had speculated that the remote, rainforested crater, known as Mt. Bosavi, must be teeming with species scientists had never seen before.  After all, the volcano last erupted 200,000 years ago, and is ringed by nearly vertical, thousand-meter high walls.  Scientists assumed that animals, unable to move beyond the forbidding walls surrunding the deep caldera have evolved in distinct ways after many thousands of years of isolation.  

     The scientists were well-rewarded for the hard work of getting into Mt. Bosavi.  Two weeks in the walled-in rainforest resulted in the discovery of 40 previously unknown animal species–mammals, amphibians, fish, spiders, and insects among them.  Never having seen humans before, many of the animals were completely unafraid of the scientists.  For example, the newly discovered Mallomys giant rat, a furry creature the size of a large cat, sat in the lap of one team member.  And a ‘new’ marsupial, the silky cuscus, perched on a scientist’s shoulder.

     The team of scientists documented 16 previously unknown frog species, including a frog with fangs.  They discovered two mammals–a ’new’ bat species as well as the giant rat, and three new fish, including one that makes a grunting sound, produced by its swim bladder. 

     While the number of newly discovered species now totals 40, scientists believe that number will increase.  Not knowing for sure whether some of the discoveries are different enough from known species to be designated as separate species, the scientists have categorized them as sub-species until more research can be done to determine which ones are, in fact, distinct secies.

     Actually getting into the caldera was an adventure in itself.  The expedition took many months of planning.  On their first visit to the village nearest to Mt. Bosavi (a four-day trek distant), the advance team found a community that has no contact with ‘the outside world.’  The villagers had no television, and they did not understand the concept that the scientific team wanted to pay to set up a base camp outside the caldera.  The advance crew asked permission to enter the caldera, and they hired 25 villagers to help them–including a cook, a medic, and a tree-climbing expert to help them scale trees. 

     A group of hunters guided the advance party to Mt. Bosavi, up its steep side, and down into the crater.  Later, the actual expedition team members were helicoptered into the caldera.  Even though the scientists chose the ‘dry’ season to make their foray into the crater, wet conditions often prevented the helicopter from entering the crater.  

     I share the glee expressed by the scientists who discovered so many ‘new’ animal species!  It’s exciting news.–April Moore

silky cuscus--a newly discovered marsupial

silky cuscus--a newly discovered marsupialMallomys woolly rat

 

 

 

Mallomys woolly rat

Mallomys woolly rat

2 Responses to “Astonishing Discoveries Inside Remote Volcano”

  1. Andi Miner Says:

    Now that’s a precious little guy, the silky cuscus. Such a face!! I’m excited too. Andi

  2. Judy Muller Says:

    This reads like a magical fairy tale, a trip into a secret volcano. I can hardly believe this is true!

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