National Geographic

Rodents Of Unusual Size And Other Such Discoveries

In the middle of nowhere on an island in the middle of the ocean, a small team of explorers — including but not limited to Smithsonian scientists, native hunters and a Dutch monk — recently made a smorgasbord of biological discoveries. Just as we start to think that we've seen it all, they're presenting the spike-nosed tree frog and rodents of unusual size (i.e., the woolly giant rat).

An aerial view of New Guinea i

An aerial view shows the Foja Mountains rainforest, on the Indonesian island of New Guinea. Tim Laman/National Geographic hide caption

itoggle caption Tim Laman/National Geographic
An aerial view of New Guinea

An aerial view shows the Foja Mountains rainforest, on the Indonesian island of New Guinea.

Tim Laman/National Geographic

Those obscure findings were made during a three-week biological expedition in the remote Foja Mountains rain forest of New Guinea, funded by the National Geographic Society. Many were photographed by wildlife photojournalist Tim Laman, and you can find them in this month's magazine. In some cases, Laman set up cameras with triggers in the middle of the forest — so as to automatically capture, for example, the ever-elusive golden-mantled tree kangaroo. Other photos were more like carefully composed taxonomic surveys.

  • This new species, the woolly giant rat, was recently discovered during a National Geographic Society-funded expedition in New Guinea.
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    This new species, the woolly giant rat, was recently discovered during a National Geographic Society-funded expedition in New Guinea.
    Tim Laman/National Geographic
  • This wallaby is the world's tiniest known member of the kangaroo family. It was discovered by Kristofer Helgen of the Smithsonian Institution.
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    This wallaby is the world's tiniest known member of the kangaroo family. It was discovered by Kristofer Helgen of the Smithsonian Institution.
    Tim Laman/National Geographic
  • This tree mouse, very possibly a new species, was also discovered by Helgen.
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    This tree mouse, very possibly a new species, was also discovered by Helgen.
    Tim Laman/National Geographic
  • The long-nosed tree frog is a new species of frog, discovered by Paul Oliver of Australia.
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    The long-nosed tree frog is a new species of frog, discovered by Paul Oliver of Australia.
    Tim Laman/National Geographic
  • A new species of gecko, also discovered by Oliver.
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    A new species of gecko, also discovered by Oliver.
    Tim Laman/National Geographic
  • A newly discovered species of blossom bat.
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    A newly discovered species of blossom bat.
    Tim Laman/National Geographic

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The team spent almost the entire expedition soaked with rain, peeling off leeches and warding off maggots — but the resulting photos and story have a real sense of adventure and discovery, showing just how much uncharted territory is still out there, and how much more we have to learn.

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