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Giants and Spiders and Frogs, Oh My!
September 6, 2009 11:08 PM   Subscribe

As many as 40 new species may have been discovered near the crater of a volcano in New Guinea. Not to alarm anyone but Fearless Giant Rats, Caterpillars that look like Snakes and Fanged Frogs have been spotted and are said to be at large.

BBC producer Steve Greenwood took a small crew from the BBC Natural History Unit in to Mount Bosavi crater. The extinct giant volcano is in the southern highlands of Papua, New Guinea. Partnering with a team from the London Zoo and Oxford University led by George McGavin, the crew recorded some of the team's fascinating discoveries. There were other dangers, besides the Rodents Of Unusual Size:
The area is so remote and inaccessible that no people live in the crater. Even villagers in the few scattered settlements surrounding the volcano rarely ventured in, due to the difficulty of climbing the slopes leading to a 2,800m summit.

"'If you fall when climbing in,' one village elder said, 'no one will ever find your body,'" recounts Greenwood.
The series, titled 'The Lost Land of the Volcano' will air on BBC One on Tuesday September 8th, at 2100 BST. The Invertebrate Diary blog has a preview.

First post, be gentle honest.
posted by Hardcore Poser (49 comments total) 28 users marked this as a favorite

 
Rodents Of Unusual Size? I don't think they exist.

*Fearless Giant Rat roars, attacks Westley*
posted by infinitewindow at 11:10 PM on September 6, 2009 [9 favorites]


Oh dear, have they found the Giant Rat of Sumatra?
posted by Chocolate Pickle at 11:28 PM on September 6, 2009 [2 favorites]


That rat? It's three feet long.
Scratch volcanos in Papua New Guinea from my 'places I will host a picnic' list.
posted by From Bklyn at 11:57 PM on September 6, 2009


"'If you fall when climbing in,' one village elder said, 'no one will ever find your body,'" recounts Greenwood.

Nonsense. You're only saying that because no one ever has.
posted by hindmost at 12:21 AM on September 7, 2009 [10 favorites]


I just have to say, I think the BBC is one of the most consistently fantastic institutions in the world, every facet of it.
posted by turgid dahlia at 12:25 AM on September 7, 2009 [3 favorites]


History of the giant rat:

2009: Discovery.

2010: Smuggled into your country by men with very large pants. Keep on eye on that "You Can't Touch This" fellow, who could probably use the cash.

2010: Cool pet, dude! Where'd you get it?

2011: Oh my God! Get rid of that fucker now!

2012: Breeding in your sewers

2013: Eating your pets

201aighihii
posted by pracowity at 12:27 AM on September 7, 2009 [15 favorites]


1930s: Smuggled into your country by men with very large pants.

1930-2002: Breeding in your sewers

2002-Present: $4 for every one of those god forsaken creatures sniped from the back of your pickup.
posted by clearly at 12:56 AM on September 7, 2009 [2 favorites]


Awww, the rat wanted to pway wif da stick!

Yes, I will be one of the first to fall when they come over on a ship.
posted by six-or-six-thirty at 12:57 AM on September 7, 2009


That rat needs to get itself some fear of humans as quickly as possible.
posted by chorltonmeateater at 12:58 AM on September 7, 2009 [9 favorites]


It's pretty cute, though. Cuter than the smaller ones.
posted by chorltonmeateater at 12:59 AM on September 7, 2009


The article says the giant rat is not afraid of humans but is it afraid of anything - could it lack any sort of "fear" instinct? I know it lives in a remote area and has never encountered people before but I thought most animals naturally shied away from larger creatures, particularly when they come in large groups carrying spotlights. I think Mother Nature is posturing, hoping that if she acts weird enough we won't want to sit next to her.
posted by Partario at 1:00 AM on September 7, 2009 [3 favorites]


I thank all that is holy for the fact that the 'lichen-spider' is indigenous only to that volcano crater... where it belongs.
posted by Unwiseone at 1:11 AM on September 7, 2009 [3 favorites]


Wait until it meets some Norway rats. Can they interbreed?

"Um, hi! My name's Rattus norvegicus, but you can call me Birget. I don't think I've seen you around these parts before. Speaking of parts, you sure are a bigger than the guys we normally see around here."

Several litters later, maybe you have norvegicus-like rats the size of beagles trotting down Main Street?
posted by pracowity at 1:13 AM on September 7, 2009


Fearless giant rat discovered in New Guinea?

Wait, has anyone seen [name of your local elected representative]?
posted by bicyclefish at 1:27 AM on September 7, 2009 [2 favorites]


I have a soft spot for rats. That big guy, I just want to give him a cuddle.
posted by Hildegarde at 4:25 AM on September 7, 2009


It certainly was thoughtful of God to guide those creatures all the way from Mount Ararat to New Guinea.
posted by Optamystic at 4:26 AM on September 7, 2009 [11 favorites]


That Fruit Dove is pretty sweet.
posted by weapons-grade pandemonium at 5:46 AM on September 7, 2009 [1 favorite]


I'm a rat fancier too, and that guy looks absolutely adorable.
posted by Meatbomb at 5:56 AM on September 7, 2009


I don't care for rats, don't hate them either, but that thing is really cute.
posted by CitrusFreak12 at 6:03 AM on September 7, 2009


Aw... the Bosavi silky cuscus mammal is pretty cute. I like how they don't even refer to it by a common mammalian name, like "horse" or "lemming". Nope, it's just mammal.
posted by Civil_Disobedient at 6:04 AM on September 7, 2009


Thanks for this post! I am so excited about this! I hope they release more pictures soon. They had me at "tiny bearlike creatures" -- although I had something a little cuter envisioned than that intense marsupial snuggling that guy's shoulder. Even so, this is cool.

Does any source actually have a photo of the fanged frog? And when will this air in the USA?
posted by Locative at 6:17 AM on September 7, 2009


That rat is adorable. I also love the pygmy parrot. It's the pocket-sized parrot for every occasion!
posted by Atreides at 6:29 AM on September 7, 2009


This is amazing; thank you for posting it.
posted by Optimus Chyme at 6:37 AM on September 7, 2009


Sure it's all fun and games now with the cute ickle mammals - wait until they stumble upon the dinosaurs that are clearly living inside that mysterious uncharted volcano (it's like an entire world that you could describe as lost in time - I name it.... The Misplaced Area).
posted by panboi at 6:39 AM on September 7, 2009 [1 favorite]


Great, now we're all gonna get Bosavi silky cuscus mammal flu.
posted by Mick at 7:03 AM on September 7, 2009 [1 favorite]


Does any source actually have a photo of the fanged frog?

i happen to have a fondness for frogs, and feel that i have been brought in here with false advertising. i'm not going to watch some bbc documentry for a half hour just to get a glimpse at a fanged frog.

i'm getting tired of all this ratlove. i want my fanged frog. where is it?
posted by lester at 7:08 AM on September 7, 2009 [2 favorites]


I'm terrified of spiders. Like utter, pathological terror. Not based in reality in any sense, but still utterly and completely afraid of spider. I even have difficulty looking at pictures of big horrible spiders.

The lichen spider doesn't set off this reaction though. I look and think..

"Hey.. it's okay.. it's just lichen".

I assume this is a genetic weakness and when the giant lichen spiders arrive, their camouflage will be extremely effective and guarantee my doom.
posted by Lord_Pall at 7:23 AM on September 7, 2009 [3 favorites]


lester: "i'm getting tired of all this ratlove. i want my fanged frog. where is it?"

P.S. I'll find my frog
posted by subbes at 7:30 AM on September 7, 2009 [4 favorites]


We will need to bring Jesus to these poor creatures so they will be saved, before we drive them into extinction.
posted by Danf at 7:31 AM on September 7, 2009


"I'm not going to say I'm NOT licking toads..." - Homer Simpson

Seriously, it's nice to hear about the discovery of a new species of frog, rather than hearing all the time about how they're going extinct, several species per week. That shit just makes me depressed.
posted by hippybear at 7:40 AM on September 7, 2009


So the new region in the next Pokemon game is New Guinea, is it?
posted by ignignokt at 8:03 AM on September 7, 2009


Sorry lester; I just checked the 'Fanged Frogs' link again and realized that neither of the frogs in that link are the fanged one after all. I stumbled on that one after about half an hour of fruitless searching for said pic and assumed it was the frog in question; my search engine skills were as droopy as my eyelids at that point.

To make up for it, here are a few links to the wonderful, wide and endangered world of frogs; please accept this as a small gesture of compensation until I track that fanged bugger down. It must be the teaser in the lot; looking up the researchers and their university pages, the photojournalists and their sites, the scientific names of other species - none of it has yielded any pictures yet.
posted by Hardcore Poser at 8:26 AM on September 7, 2009 [1 favorite]


"Cuscus" is the common name.

Incidentally, I recognize this photo from a set of wildlife cards I had as a kid. The cuscus was one of my favorites. The email quoted in the "permission" section for that image has dollbaby78@hotmail.com, who made this cuscus page, giving permission to use the images on Wikipedia. Those images are all from the card I had, and I think the text may be as well. It's nice that wikipedia got permission to use the image from the person who seems to have scanned it from a copyrighted work without permission. Heh.
posted by whatnotever at 8:39 AM on September 7, 2009


civil disobedient, I can assure you in PNG they just call them cus cus. Or good food (not kidding on that one sadly :(. Cus cus are super cute - I have been lucky enough to handle a few when I lived there.
posted by Megami at 8:41 AM on September 7, 2009


The 7-legged lichen spider was pretty, and like Lord_Pall, my SPIDER! alarm didn't go off. The furry caterpillar is seriously creepy and should stay far away from me, though. I first read the "buff faced pygmy parrot" as "butt faced" and thought that was a rather unkind thing to name a perfectly fine-looking bird. The rat is adorable! I'm looking forward to seeing the fanged frog.
posted by notashroom at 9:02 AM on September 7, 2009


Still no luck on the fanged frog pic. However, I did find a blog written by one of the research team that shows a bit of how they worked and what the camp was like, as well as a few more critter pictures.
posted by Hardcore Poser at 9:42 AM on September 7, 2009


"Have you ever had a cuscus on your head?"
posted by redsparkler at 10:28 AM on September 7, 2009


Actually redsparkler, yes I have :)
Great clip BTW.
posted by Megami at 2:06 PM on September 7, 2009


I assume this is a genetic weakness and when the giant lichen spiders arrive, their camouflage will be extremely effective and guarantee my doom.

They're easy enough to spot. Four of their eight eyes are one colour, the other four are another. Say hello to Heteropoda davidbowie.
posted by permafrost at 2:27 PM on September 7, 2009


This isn't the first time new species have been discovered in Papua, New Guinea.
posted by homunculus at 2:29 PM on September 7, 2009


A Decade of New Species Discoveries in the Himalayas
posted by homunculus at 2:35 PM on September 7, 2009 [1 favorite]


I have some cuscus fur in a billum that I used to wear it on my head... does that count redsparkler?
posted by latch24 at 2:46 AM on September 8, 2009 [1 favorite]


Did we have the footage of the pygmy parrot yet? It's just never-ending wow, this expedition.
posted by Abiezer at 7:03 AM on September 8, 2009


I too was looking for fanged frog photos - I had something vampire-like in mind.
Alas, no visuals.
So of course my imagination is now running wild.
posted by batgrlHG at 12:04 PM on September 8, 2009


damn it ... guess i just have to go there myself. any idea where these fanged frogs will be hanging out when i get there? and do i need mosquito repellent?
posted by lester at 6:10 PM on September 8, 2009


Have you ever had a cuscus on your head?
Have you ever had a fanged frog in your bed?

Have you ever pet a giant rat?
Well we've been there, and we've done that.

If you've never done these things, you should.
These things are fun, and fun is good.

posted by Meatbomb at 12:47 AM on September 9, 2009 [1 favorite]


The show's producer, Steve Greenwood, wrote about the expedition (and how it differed from the typical unusual animal search) on the Guardian's TV & Radio blog. It provides some interesting insight. PhysOrg has more details on just about everything (who was in the expedition team, how many species were initially identified as potentially previously undescribed (20 new species of insects and spiders, 16 species of frogs, a new bat, and at least three fish species; many of the new species discovered are believed to exist only in the Mount Bosavi crater).

Mount Bosavi is part of a larger UNESCO World Heritage Site (Kikori River Basin / Great Papuan Plateau). Here's an approximate location on Google Maps (in green, location from the Wiki entry on the crater). According to this article, scientists have long thought that the animals inside would have been unable to move beyond the 1,000-metre crater walls, and were likely to have evolved in distinct ways after thousands of years in isolation. The area outside the crater is hard enough to access that elders could recall a childhood of stone tools and the arrival of the first metal axe in the village.
posted by filthy light thief at 2:32 PM on September 9, 2009


Good news! Your cuscus-wearing points have been awarded, Megami and latch24! Pick up your prizes before you leave.
posted by redsparkler at 1:11 AM on September 12, 2009


Leopard gecko and fanged frog among new species discovered in Mekong
posted by homunculus at 8:59 AM on September 26, 2009


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