Changing Planet

Uncharted Territory: Scientists Discover New and Incredible Species

A portrait of a Tree frog (Leptopeles flavomaculatus), one of 33 species of frogs recorded on the Cheringoma Plateau (Piotr Naskrecki)

It’s every scientist’s dream to travel to a remote, unexplored place looking for as many new and interesting species as they can find. This was a dream come true for the 15 Mozambican and international scientists, led by Piotr Naskrecki, who spent 3 weeks in the Cheringoma Plateau of Gorongosa National Parkin Mozambique. There couldn’t have been a more adventurous setting for this expedition than the sheer limestone cliffs, studded with deep caves, cascading down to the lush riverine forest and rushing streams of the gorges below. The scientists’ mission was to collect and record information on the species of this region to help park managers understand and protect Gorongosa’s biodiversity.

Scientist Jennifer Guyton releasing bats caught during the survey after having taken their body measurements. (Piotr Naskrecki)
Scientist Jennifer Guyton releasing bats caught during the survey after having taken their body measurements. (Piotr Naskrecki)

In total, the team recorded over 1,200 species (and counting) including 182 bird species, 54 mammal species, 47 reptile species, 33 frog species, over 100 antspecies, and 320 plant species. Some of the notable finds on the survey were the “Chewbacca Bat”, named after the Star Wars character; a strange, cave-dwelling frog that is possibly new to science; an ant that is incapable of walking on flat surfaces; a bombardier beetle that defends itself by producing small explosions from its abdomen; and several katydids that are new to science.

A portrait of the “Chewbacca bat” (Triaenops persicus) recorded during the survey of the Cheringoma Plateau. (Piotr Naskrecki)
A portrait of the “Chewbacca bat” (Triaenops persicus) recorded during the survey of the Cheringoma Plateau. (Piotr Naskrecki)

 

Tumbling ant (Melissotarsus emeryi) is the world’s only ant incapable of walking on flat surfaces. This species spends its live inside narrow passage deep in the wood of trees and can only move by pushing its short legs below and above the body at the same time. (Piotr Naskrecki)
Tumbling ant (Melissotarsus emeryi) is the world’s only ant incapable of walking on flat surfaces. This species spends its live inside narrow passage deep in the wood of trees and can only move by pushing its short legs below and above the body at the same time. (Piotr Naskrecki)

 

Bombardier beetle (Cerapterus lacerates) produces small, audible explosions by expelling volatile, highly reactive chemicals from its abdomen (Piotr Naskrecki)
Bombardier beetle (Cerapterus lacerates) produces small, audible explosions by expelling volatile, highly reactive chemicals from its abdomen (Piotr Naskrecki)

The scientists used a variety of methods on the survey including pitfall traps, mist nets, pheromone traps, remote cameras, and ultrasonic sound detectors. They explored uncharted territory in Gorongosa, descending into caves in deep limestone gorges, and ascending the tall canopies of trees using advanced tree climbing and rappelling techniques.

Nhagutua, an unexplored limestone gorge in the northern part of the Cheringoma plateau (Piotr Naskrecki)
Nhagutua, an unexplored limestone gorge in the northern part of the Cheringoma plateau (Piotr Naskrecki)

This was the first comprehensive biodiversity survey in the history of this 4,000sqkm  protected area, and its results will help guide the restoration effort to reverse biodiversity losses suffered by the park during the armed conflicts that devastated Mozambique from 1975 until 1992. By understanding what species exist in Gorongosa, park management can make better decisions about how to protect the park’s biodiversity and its rare and threatened species.

The Wilson Biodiversity Laboratory, in honor of E.O. Wilson’s support, is a modern science laboratory scheduled to open in Gorongosa soon. Specimens collected during the survey will form the foundation of a biological research collection that will be housed in the lab. And information collected by the survey’s scientists will contribute to the park’s biodiversity database, a tool that helps manage and protect its natural resources.

Sylvan katydid (Acauloplax exigua), a species found for the first time in over 100 years since it was originally described (Piotr Naskrecki)
Sylvan katydid (Acauloplax exigua), a species found for the first time in over 100 years since it was originally described (Piotr Naskrecki)
Flap-necked chameleon (Chamaeleo dilepis) from the Cheringoma Plateau (Piotr Naskrecki)
Flap-necked chameleon (Chamaeleo dilepis) from the Cheringoma Plateau (Piotr Naskrecki)

 

A portrait of a slender praying mantis (Idolomorpha dentifrons) from the Cheringoma Plateau. (Piotr Naskrecki)
A portrait of a slender praying mantis (Idolomorpha dentifrons) from the Cheringoma Plateau. (Piotr Naskrecki)
Bridget Conneely is a zoologist by trade specializing in large African mammals. She has been involved in the Gorongosa Restoration Project since 2005 both as a scientist and through her other passion, communicating the Gorongosa story to the public.
  • Nichole Alvarez

    Absolutely amazing, amazing really and truly amazing. Cant say anything more other than most spectacular job.

  • Nichole Alvarez

    wonderful, absolutely amazing new specimens… great job explorers.

  • fry

    bullshit, hypnotoad was already discovered.

  • Tegan Christie

    This is so amazing. I cannot wait to finish my degree and hopefully do something like this one day!

  • mmspr

    Beautiful!! Imagine all the others just waiting (or not!) to be discovered.

  • Christian Ladebu

    Extremely Fascinating!

  • Gary

    Wow! Great pictures! I can add these to my pokedex!

  • RenHe Chen

    How amazing nature is !

  • Matt Chase

    Fantastic!

  • Nasah (USA)

    That praying Mantis is from from alien planet.

  • edward cantablabrian

    the worst part is that my bum is just like a bombadier beetle.

  • John Ross Castano

    Ahhh… the power of evolution…

  • copy editor

    rappelling

  • Kraisiri

    Absolutely wonderful!!!!

  • Abdelkader Bakhti

    I love that. Praise the creator almighty.

  • Daniel

    Gross but so amazing creatures. Great job for the scientists!

  • adeel

    amazing species very good work done

  • Sarvagya

    Nature evolves every day 🙂

  • Roberto Rizzo

    Bueno saber que no todo en el mundo son especies extintas.

  • doni

    That Mantis! They found the inspiration behind Alien!!

  • Hernando

    What a wonderful example of evolution taking its course…beautiful!

  • BITWIN

    GOOD JOB

  • Susan Mobbs

    Amazing Photos. I wonder what else is waiting to be discovered?

  • 103David

    Considering what we find on our own planet, can we even begin to imagine what we’ll find on the next planet…if we can get it together to go see what we find there.
    Hope so.

  • Mike

    Beautiful!

  • Constanza Sánchez

    Se me puso la carne de gallina de placer al ver tanta maravilla.

  • DLM

    There are many plateaus and all are unique. Stunning photography!

  • Chris Loxley-Ford

    What a pioneering mission this is – and an almost endless variety of new flora and fauna to be discovered ! Excellent looking results so far !!

  • Jimbo Hawkins

    I’m working in Afghanistan and I found that beautiful Praying Manits on one of my job sites ! Everyplace I visit I try to find some kind of insect to place on my head for a photo and I was lucky to have found this little guy. They are amazing little creatures to watch!!!

  • J. Luis Gomes

    I found one exactly like this one here in Portugal. I´ve taked photos of her.

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