In 2008, Conservation International and National Geographic funded a four-week expedition to Papua New Guinea's Foja Mountains. The scientists who went aimed to survey animals living in the remote area. While resting at the expedition's campsite one day, herpetologist Paul Oliver captured a small tree frog he saw sitting on a bag of rice. Nicknamed the Pinocchio frog, the individual is believed to be a new member of the Litoria genus of Australasian tree frogs.
That's a RAP
Developed in 1990, the Rapid Assessment Program is designed to quickly and thoroughly inventory all wildlife in a specific area. RAP expeditions such as the one undertaken in the Foja Mountains send in teams of scientists to intensely study an area. RAP teams provide their findings to governments and conservation groups, better enabling them to protect new and endangered species in remote locales. The 2008 Foja expedition discovered many new species in addition to the Pinocchio frog, including a dwarf wallaby and a large wooly rat, according to reports published in 2010.
What a Big Nose You Have
As indicated by the fact the scientists who discovered the creature called him the Pinocchio frog, the male of this species has a long, fleshy spike between his nostrils. When he's calling, or interested in something, the spike inflates and points upward. When he loses interest, the spike deflates downward. The individual captured in Foja was a male, and his "nose" was pointed upward when he was first sighted, though it deflated after he was captured. The species has green-and-brown skin with black speckles on its back, fading to a white belly.
The Lost World
The Pinocchio frog, also called the long-nosed tree frog, lives in rainforest pools or ponds at high altitudes. The Foja Mountains have peaks as high as 7,200 feet above sea level, and this altitude fosters a misty, cool climate characterized by frequent rainfall. Animals like this frog who adapted to such a climate remain trapped high in the mountains, since it's considerably hotter below. The isolated Foja Mountains remained inaccessible and unexplored until a clearing suitable for landing a helicopter was discovered in 2004 by an ornithologist flying over the region.
More Questions than Answers
Since only one Pinocchio frog was captured during the expedition, scientists remain unsure whether he represents a new species, or is evidence of a new population of Litoria prominia, a tree frog that has already been described. Little is known about this species, which has the same "nose" as the Pinocchio frog. It's only known to live in four locations in the central mountains of Papua New Guinea, and no one had suspected it might be living in the Foja mountains as well.
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Jennifer Mueller began writing and editing professionally in 1995, when she became sports editor of her university's newspaper while also writing a bi-monthly general interest column for an independent tourist publication. Mueller holds a Bachelor of Arts in political science from the University of North Carolina at Asheville and a Juris Doctor from Indiana University Maurer School of Law.