This past September, a team of scientists came upon an exciting geological and biological find. Located in Papua, New Guinea, a crater of about one kilometer in depth and three kilometers in width, was discovered. This crater, thought to be volcanic, housed about forty undiscovered species of animals. This discovery was similar to that of the Galapagos Islands, in that all of the newly-discovered species seem to have evolved separately from other animals. These strange species include a giant wooly rat, fanged frogs, fish that make grunting sounds, and kangaroos that reside in trees. It is thought that these animals evolved because of the absence of large cats on the island. Instead of large cats, these animals’ main predators are large monitor lizards.
While some craters are formed by a meteor striking the earth, volcanic craters are depressions in the Earth’s surface that are formed after the eruption of a cone-shaped volcano. This is how the crater, near Mount Bosavi, was formed. Volcanoes usually become extinct when their lava supply disappears. Although extinct and dormant volcanoes are easily confused, scientists can determine its true nature by testing for an underground lava flow. The caldera in Yellowstone in considered dormant, even though it has not erupted for about 640,000 years. Another example of a dormant volcano is Mount Vesuvius, which was thought to be extinct before its infamous AD 79 eruption in Pompeii.
Papua New Guinea is located near the Philippines, and is extremely mountainous. It is also covered by rainforest. Despite its proximity to the equator, Papua New Guinea surprisingly experiences snowfall. Papua New Guinea is located on the Indo-Australian plate. Many of the animals in New Guinea are genetically similar to those found in Australia, These two locations hold some rare marsupials in common, including rare opossums and kangaroos. Papua New Guinea is home to over 200 species of animals, and roughly 27% of them are considered threatened. The island of Papua New Guinea’s rainforest is being destroyed at 2.7% per year. The scientists who discovered the crater hope that their discovery will spur a movement to protect these rare tropical rainforest environments from human impact.
The scientists who made these findings are thought to be the first people to explore the crater. Some of these biologists were from oxford University. These animals are extremely unique and scientists hope they can be protected. The nature of these animals, due to their lack of interactions of humans, is very fearless and friendly. The wooly rat, for example, let the biologists approach, and even hold it.