Over 1,300 new species discovered in Australia


From the Irish Times:

Flesh-eating plant and a fast-talking frog among Australian discoveries

PÃDRAIG COLLINS in Sydney

A FLESH-EATING plant, the fast-talking tree frog and one of the world’s most venomous snakes are among at least 1,300 new plant and animal species discovered in Australia over the past decade, according to a new report from the World Wildlife Federation.

The report highlights the discovery of over a thousand plants, 195 fish, 74 reptiles, 13 amphibians and seven mammals. “The extent of Australia’s rich biodiversity is astounding,” said Michael Roache, threatened species programme manager of WWF-Australia.

“This report shows that we have discovered an average of at least two new species a week every year for the past 10 years . . . But this could just be the tip of the iceberg. There could be thousands more out there.”

Mr Roache says the fast-talking tree frog is not even the most interesting frog discovered. “It’s just got a very fast, trilling call,” he told The Irish Times. “The name sounds cooler than the species might be.

“A more interesting discovery is the northern stony-creek frog. The males and females are brown for most of the year, but males turn yellow during breeding season.

“He then turns bright yellow when coupling with the female. It’s a good thing humans don’t do that,” said Mr Roache.

While flesh-eating plants have a long history as B-movie staples, the Nepenthes tenax, better known as the pitcher plant, was only discovered in 2006 in Cape York, far north Queensland. It can grow up to one metre tall – far greater than the usual 15cm limit for such plants – and has a taste for small rats, mice, lizards and even birds.

Of more immediate concern to humans is the newly-discovered central ranges Taipan, believed to be one of the world’s most venomous snakes. As well as presenting strange and exotic new flora and faunae to the world, the report says many vital habitats are increasingly endangered.

“Over 1,700 of Australia’s plants and animals are listed by the Australian government as threatened. With the discovery of so many new and exciting species it is crucial that efforts to keep them off the threatened lists are maintained,” said Mr Roache.

One of Australia’s most endangered species, the pipistrelle bat of Christmas Island, may have just become extinct.

Scientists have spent a month trying to capture the bats for a breeding programme, but have failed to find any.

White ibis becoming urban birds in Australia due to drought: here.

Seasonal population dynamics of the Australian White Ibis (Threskiornis molucca) in urban environments: here.

Our knowledge of Australian bat taxonomy is roughly at the stage of American bat taxonomy 100 years ago. It’s not that our Aussie mammal taxonomists have been out to lunch, but Australia has a shorter history of European settlement than the USA, and a smaller population, and we have at least twice as many bat species to sort out: here.

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