New species found in ‘lost world’

Three new species have been discovered in a remote part of Australia that is accessible only by helicopter.

A bizarre looking leaf-tail gecko, a golden-coloured skink and a boulder-dwelling frog have been found on the rugged Cape Melville mountain range located in the Cape York Peninsular of north-east Australia. James Cook University and National Geographic teamed up to explore a patch of rainforest on top of the Cape Melville mountain range where millions of black granite boulders the size of cars and houses are piled hundreds of meters high.

Isolated for millions of years, the newly discovered species are perfectly adapted to life among the boulders. Australia’s dry season is no problem for the Blotched Boulder-frog (Cophixalus petrophilus) as it hides in cool, moist spaces between boulders. During the wet season, this frog emerges to feed and breed, laying its eggs in moist cracks in rocks. The male frog then guards the eggs until fully formed froglets hatch out!

The discovery of the Cape Melville Leaf-tailed Gecko (Saltuarius eximius) has caused particular excitement as it is distinct from its relatives. With its leaf-like tail, excellent camouflage and huge eyes, this gecko hides between boulders during the day and comes out at night to hunt and eat on insects.

The Cape Melville Shade Skink (Saproscincus saltus) has also been found to be distinct from its relatives and unlike the gecko, this species likes to hunt by day. Its scientific name ‘saltus’ means ‘leaping’ and reflects the running and jumping movements it makes as it hunts insects across the boulders it calls home.

As surprising as these discoveries are, scientists are excited that there could be more secrets to be revealed in the lost world of Cape Melville.

Find out more and see pictures of these amazing new species in the original James Cook University press release.

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