06 Sep 2009
A "flesh-eating" plant and one of the world's most venomous snakes are two of at least 1,300 new plant and animal species discovered in Australia over the past decade, according to a new report launched today by WWF-Australia.
Australia's Hidden Treasures, released to mark National Threatened Species Day on September 7, highlights the amazing diversity of plants and animals which have been discovered or newly described across Australia over the last 10 years including over a thousand plants, 195 fish, 74 reptiles, 13 amphibians and 7 mammals.
"The extent of Australia's rich biodiversity is astounding, to the point where science is regularly being used to describe new species," said Michael Roache, Threatened Species Program Manager, 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."
Discovered in 2006 in Queensland's northern Cape York, the Nepenthes tenax, more commonly know as the "flesh-eating" pitcher plant, leads the new discoveries in terms of its obscurity. The plant can grow a maximum height of 100cm - exceptional since others can only grow to a maximum height of 15cm - and is believed to consume small rats, mice, lizards and even birds.
Species like the fast-talking tree frog and the Torresian flying fox are among the other many treasures Australian scientists have discovered from the Kimberley, to Far North Queensland and across southern Australia.
"Located across all Australian states, these new finds could represent just a fraction of new species yet to be discovered," Mr Roache said. "There may be many more thousands of new plants and animals in Australia that await discovery."
The northern stony-creek frog could be called Australia's own chameleon, as it changes colour to impress the opposite sex. Found in the rainforests of Queensland, this frog builds perfectly circular nests of remarkably uniform size.
Western Australia now boasts the newly discovered Pilbara death adder and the central ranges taipan, believed to be one of the world's most venomous snakes. Scientists suggest that the discovery of a third species of taipan after more than 125 years is testament to the large areas of the Australian arid zone that remain poorly surveyed for reptiles.
There are likely to be other many more undescribed species of reptiles in parts of north-eastern Western Australia and western Northern Territory that are seldom visited by biologists.
Scientists have also found 274 new species of corals, starfish, sponges, shrimps and crabs 2km beneath the surface of the ocean 100 to 200 nautical miles south of Tasmania.
Importantly, the discoveries highlight many vital habitats facing growing pressures. Australia's plant and animal species face a wave of dangers as the human population grows and the demand for natural resources increases.
Habitat loss and degradation, invasive species and pollution are the key threats to Australian biodiversity, followed by climate change, which will amplify their impacts.
"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.
The launch of the Australian findings follows WWF’s reportage of over a thousand new species discovered in the Greater Mekong Region of Southeast Asia and 353 new species in the Eastern Himalayas over the last decade. http://www.wwf.org.au/news/flesh-eating ... red-in-oz/