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The natural world. Looking pretty for 3.5b years.

Lost & Found Worlds

Author: Hugh Bollinger/Tuesday, October 29, 2013/Categories: natural history, photography, environment, adventure , Archive Pick of the Week

Biogeography rule #1: odd things evolve on islands.

Charles Darwin and Alfred Wallace discovered this natural fact while investigating strange plants and animals in the Galapagos and in Indonesia
. Their discoveries led to the central tenant of all evolutionary biology. Islands can be surrounded by water, savannas, deserts, or even boulders but a defining characteristic is that organisms living there are separated by distances and an inability to disperse. This separation allows evolution to create unique and often odd characteristics.

Amazing discoveries are still to be made on 'lost worlds' of isolated islands.

Conrad Hoskin, of James Cook University in Queensland, Australia announced the discovery of several unknown species on a mountain "sky island" in northern Queensland. The animals have been isolated from any related species for millions of years.
Hoskin, and colleagues from Harvard University, had to be helicoptered into the mountains of Cape Melville National Park at the northern tip of Cape York Peninsula because access was impossible otherwise. The entire mountain range consists of massive boulders the size of houses.

   
Cape Melville NP "Sky Island" Mountaintop Forests   (credit: photos by Conrad Hoskin, JCU)

Hoskin, a postdoctoral fellow at James Cook University, identified one of the new species as a leaf-tailed gecko. He commented: “Finding three new, obviously distinct vertebrates would be surprising enough in somewhere poorly explored like New Guinea, let alone in Australia, a country we think we've explored pretty well."

Hoskin might have also commented that the gecko is perfectly camouflaged to its strange and isolated boulder strewn environment. It blends in perfectly with the trees and rocks.


Leaf-tailed gecko, Saltuarius eximius  (credit: photo by Conrad Hoskin, JCU)

The field researcher continued: “The top of Cape Melville is a lost world. Finding these new species up there is the discovery of a life time - I'm still amazed and buzzing from it.”

More discoveries remain to be uncovered on other 'lost worlds'. Darwin and Wallace would have understood Hoskin's excitement in making his findings.

WHB




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