Environment

Google Earth aids scientific discovery, new species at Mount Mabu, Mount Mabu

Google Earth Leads Scientists to New Species in Mozambique

December 23, 2008 04:45 PM
by findingDulcinea Staff
Conservationists have discovered a treasure trove of biodiversity in previously uncharted territory in the southern African nation using the Internet mapping tool.

“Lost World” Yields New Species

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A British expedition of scientists to a mountainous forest called Mount Mabu in northern Mozambique has found that the area is home to hundreds of plant species, birds, butterflies and monkeys.

The 27-square-mile forest is being called a “Lost World” and a “hidden paradise,” filled to the brim with exotic plants, insects, and animals including three new species of Lepidoptera butterly and a new member of the poisonous Gaboon viper family of snakes.

A team of scientists led by the Royal Botanic Gardens in Kew also found in just a few weeks’ time that the lush forest was home to the blue duiker antelope, samango monkeys, elephant shrews, almost 200 different types of butterflies, and thousands of tropical plants, and say that at least a few additional new plant species and insects will probably be identified once all of the samples are analyzed.

The phenomenal diversity is just mind-boggling: seeing how things are adapted to little niches, to me this is the incredible thing,” said Kew expedition leader Jonathan Timberlake, according to Mongabay. “Even today we cannot say we know all the world’s key areas for biodiversity—there are still new ones to discover.”

Kew scientist Julian Bayliss says that he found Mount Mabu, which had been previously unexplored due to unfriendly terrain and civil war, while researching possible conservation projects in the area using satellite imaging tool Google Earth, and unexpectedly noticed green, wooded areas in unexplored locales.

“Nobody knew about it,” Timberlake said to the Daily Mail. “The literature I’m aware of doesn’t mention the word Mabu anywhere. We have looked through the plant collections of Kew and elsewhere and we don’t see the name come up.”

Google Earth is not the only new technology that has recently become of use to scientists. Wired magazine reports that high-definition video is helping scientists study the forces that create volcanic eruptions.
A University of North Carolina seismologist Jonathan Lees and his colleagues found that examining high-definition video frame by frame and using seismic data let them view rapid movements of Guatemala’s Mt. Santiaguito’s dome that normally cannot be seen by the naked eye. “The dome is uplifting prior to the plume coming out,” said Lees. “We never knew this until we did this experiment.”

Scientists say that the new technique will aid them in their understanding of volcanic eruptions, which have been difficult to studying using only indirect measurements such as seismic recordings.

Related Topics: ‘More Than 1,000 New Species Found in Mekong Region Over Past Decade’

The Greater Mekong River region in Southeast Asia was recently found to be home to more than 1,068 new species, including a hot-pink dragon millipede and the Laotian rock rat. The World Wildlife Fund says in a new report that recent finds include 519 plants, 279 fish, 88 frogs, 88 spiders, 46 lizards, 22 snakes, 15 mammals, four birds, four turtles, two salamanders, a toad and thousands of new invertebrates.

Researchers now say that the Greater Mekong area, which includes Cambodia, Lao PDR, Myanmar, Thailand, Vietnam and the southern Chinese province of Yunnan, is among the most biodiverse places on the Earth.

While concerns about extinction and endangerment continue to dampen the spirits of wildlife researchers, several new species have been discovered in recent months, including a new species of snake called “Leptotyphlops carlae” in Barbados, a new type of fungus and a new species of dolphin.
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