'Lost Rainforest' Yields Bizarre Species

And remote Australian rainforest could hold even more
By Evann Gastaldo,  Newser Staff
Posted Oct 30, 2013 8:44 AM CDT
Mountaintop 'Lost Rainforest' Yields Bizarre Species
Shade Skink (Saproscincus saltus)   (Photo by Conrad Hoskin)

A rainforest sits atop Australia's Cape Melville mountain range, surrounded by granite boulders—some as big as cars or houses—piled in walls as tall as 300 feet, making it quite challenging to explore. Researchers from Queensland's James Cook University had to travel there via helicopter; once in, they discovered three species completely new to science that have probably been living isolated in the misty, rocky environment for millions of years. The blotched boulder frog hangs out in the moist gaps between the boulders; the shade skink looks like a snake—except for its legs; and the leaf-tailed gecko has, well, a tail that looks like a leaf. "The top of Cape Melville is a lost world. Finding these new species up there is the discovery of a lifetime," says one of the researchers.

All three new species evolved to thrive in the rocky landscape, the Los Angeles Times reports: The gecko has big eyes to help it see in the poor light; the skink's long, narrow body helps it navigate across the boulders; and the frog, well, we'll let one of the researchers explain: "You might wonder how a frog's tadpoles can live in a 'hollow' boulder-field with no water sitting around. The answer is that the eggs are laid in moist rock cracks and the tadpoles develop within the eggs, guarded by the male, until fully-formed froglets hatch out." The frogs mate only in the rain, CNN notes. As for the aforementioned gecko, one reptile expert calls it "the strangest new species to come across my desk in 26 years." The researchers think there could be even more new species to discover there. (More new species stories.)

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