Two lizards and one frog discovered in Australia

by | 8th November 2013

Last March, several scientists from James Cook University and a National Geographic/Harvard University photographer surveyed the remote peninsula of Cape Melville in north eastern Australia. It was the first time scientists had explored the area. Within days they had discovered three vertebrates completely new to science: a gecko, a skink and a frog.

Camouflage artist, The Cape Melville Leaf-tailed Gecko. Photo copyright Tim Laman / National Geographic

  • To find three completely new and distinct vertebrates is very surprising, especially in an area that has been explored as much as Australia has.
  • These three animals are all unique to Cape Melville and have developed traits to help them live among the boulders.
  • The Cape Melville Leaf-tailed Gecko received the scientific name Saltuarius eximius meaning “exceptional” or “extraordinary” to describe its ability to camouflage.
  • The other lizard discovered, the Cape Melville Shade Skink (Saproscincus saltus), is extremely small and active.
  • The Blotched Boulder-frog has the scientific name Cophixalus petrophilus meaning “rock-loving.”
  • During the rainy season, the Blotched Boulder-frog comes out from under the boulders to mate.
  • The males guard the eggs, which are laid in moist rock cracks.

Chad Hoskin holding the Cape Melville Shade Skink on the tips of his fingers. Photo copyright Tim Laman / National Geographic

The Blotched Boulder-frog. Photo copyright Tim Laman / National Geographic

For more pictures and information: New to science: 2 lizards, 1 frog discovered on Australian expedition (pictures)

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Gold Mining in Amazon Rainforest Increases by 400%

by | 29th October 2013

Researchers from the Carnegie Institution for Science have found that the amount of area used for gold mining in the Peruvian Amazon has increased by 400% since 1999.

Plane view of Amazon landscape scarred by open pit gold mining. Photo by Rhett A. Butler /

This amount is much larger than what had been predicted by other scientists and strengthens the need for conservation of the area’s rivers and forests.

  • Madre de Dios (translating to Mother of God) is located in the southeastern corner of Peru.
  • The area has historically been covered with some of the most diverse and pristine rainforest in the world.
  • Maps of the area were made using images from satellites, airplanes and data taken on the ground.
  • High tech materials have allowed the researchers to map thousands of small mines that nobody had previously seen.
  • In 1999, there were around 10 thousand hectares of land used for mining – that’s around 18 thousand football fields. The most recent study found more than 50 thousand hectares of land are currently being used for mining or 93 thousand football fields!
  • Gold mining not only affects the rainforest, which is cut down, but the rivers around the forest.
  • The gold miners use mercury to help separate the gold from the ground. The mercury has harmful effects on the animals living in the rivers, as well as the people in the nearby towns
  • Gold mining is the cause for most of the land damage in this area.
  • The two main reasons that area mined has increased are: gold prices increasing and lack of government involvement.
  • With the price of gold rising, there is more incentive to mine and sell it. Often times these miners are “illegal.”
  • Studies on gold mining’s impact are being shown to the government, so that new policies may be put into place to protect the land.

For more information visit: Gold mining in the Amazon rainforest surges 400%

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