Tuesday, September 30, 2008

Creature Feature

In 2005, my colleagues and I at the Institute of Humongous Natural Critters (IHNC) began hearing reports coming out of Indonesia of the discovery of previously unknown plant and animal species in the far east of that nation. A team of entomologists from the University of Dusseldorf had been searching for new bog-bug phyla in the humid jungles of Irian Jaya, the Indonesian part of New Guinea.

After their guides mysteriously disappeared, the group wandered for days in a vain attempt to reach camp. Finally and quite unexpectantly, they staggered from the jungle onto a large plateau surrounded by a ring of mountains. The Germans stared in disbelief, for it was if they had arrived at some terrestrial Atlantis.

All around, covering the lush plateau, were giant fern-like plants, unlike any they had ever seen. Here and there grew groves of giant evergreen trees normally found only in high Alpine areas. The unspoiled plateau was also home to a diverse population of never before seen animals, including giant arboreal wombats and laughing shrews.

For two days, the university team recorded twelve new plant and eight new animal species. The night before being rescued from the highland Shangri-la, they heard a commotion outside the tents. Rolf Jensch, expedition photographer, crawled outside just in time to get a picture of surely the oddest inhabitant of that alien land – an eight foot long goliath bog-bug, pictured below.

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