Newly Discovered Giant Lizard Is Human-Sized, Has Two Penises

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Biologists have just made one of the most stunning animal discoveries of the year–it’s a cousin of the komodo dragon uncovered on an island in the Philippines. Scientists have dubbed the species of monitor lizard, which measures over six feet in length, the Varanus bitatawa. More on the giant lizard that biologists are calling ‘spectacular’ after the jump. And yes, we’ll get to the whole dual-penis thing.

The AFP reports that the lizard is brightly colored, is not a carnivore (unlike its relative the komodo dragon), and has been habitually hunted by the local populace for food. Combined with ongoing habitat loss from development on the island, the lizard is almost certain to be classified as critically endangered. What’s most amazing about this discovery (besides the fact that the lizard has two members, of course) is that it took place right smack dab in the middle of a highly populated area. According to the AFP, “One reason that the new lizard has gone undetected, the researchers speculate, is that it never leaves the forests of its native Sierra Madre mountains to traverse open spaces.”
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Frog Thought To Have Been Extinct For 30 Years Discovered In Australia

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A species of frog thought to have been extinct for 30 years has been discovered in rural Australian farmland. Frank Sartor, minister for environment and climate change, said the discovery of the yellow-spotted bell frog is a reminder of the need to protect natural habitats so “future generations can enjoy the noise and colour of our native animals.”

Luke Pearce, a local fisheries conservation officer, stumbled across one of the frogs in October 2008 while researching an endangered fish species in the southern Tablelands of New South Wales state. Mr Pearce said he had been walking along a stream trying to catch a southern pygmy perch when he spotted the frog next to the water.

Mr Pearce returned in the same season in 2009 with experts who confirmed it was a colony of around 100 yellow-spotted bell frogs.Dave Hunter, threatened species officer with the Department of Climate Change and Water, said the find is very important.
“To have found this species that hasn’t been seen for 30 years and that professional researchers thought was extinct is great,” he said. “It gives us a lot of hope that a lot of other species that we thought were extinct aren’t actually extinct – we just haven’t found them.”
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New Species Of Dinosaur Found In Eastern Utah Rock

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Fossils of a previously undiscovered species of dinosaur have been found in slabs of Utah sandstone that were so hard that explosives had to be used to free some of the remains, scientists said Tuesday. The bones found at Dinosaur National Monument belonged to a type of sauropod — long-necked plant-eaters that were said to be the largest animal ever to roam land.

The discovery included two complete skulls from other types of sauropods — an extremely rare find, scientists said.The fossils offer fresh insight into lives of dinosaurs some 105 million years ago, including the evolution of sauropod teeth, which reveal eating habits and other information, said Dan Chure, a paleontologist at the monument that straddles the Utah-Colorado border.

“You can hardly overstate the significance of these fossils,” he said.Of the 120 or so known species of sauropods, complete skulls have been found for just eight. That’s mostly because their skulls were made of thin, fragile bones bound by soft tissue that were easily destroyed after death.
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A Six-Legged Deer Discovered

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A mutant, six-legged deer was discovered in Everett Springs, Georgia in the US after being viciously attacked by two dogs. The little one has two distinct pelvises and uses one leg from each to walk. It also had two tails but lost one following the attack of the dogs.

The veterinarian treating it said the deer’s case is truly abnormal: the legs are part of a twin that didn’t form all the way. It seems to move pretty well, considering the two central legs almost always get in the way. The owners of the dogs said they realized the mutation right after they separated the dogs from the deer and wanted to release it.

Nonetheless, the little one can barely survive in the wilderness on its own. According to the veterinarian, it will be taken at the deer facility at the University of Georgia once it has recovered. Here is a video of fawn trying to run around.

(source)

DNA Mechanism That Prevents Two Species From Reproducing Discovered

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When two populations of a species become geographically isolated from each other, their genes
diverge from one another over time.

Cornell researchers have discovered a genetic mechanism in fruit flies that prevents two closely related species from reproducing, a finding that offers clues to how species evolve.
Eventually, when a male from one group mates with a female from the other group, the offspring will die or be born sterile, as crosses between horses and donkeys produce sterile mules. At this point, they have become two distinct species.
Now, Cornell researchers report in the October issue of Public Library of Science Biology (Vol. 7, No. 10) that rapidly evolving “junk” DNA may create incompatibilities between two related species, preventing them from reproducing. In this case, the researchers studied crosses between closely related fruit flies, Drosophila melanogaster and D. simulans. Nearly 100 years ago, scientists discovered that when male D. melanogasters mate with female D. simulans, normal males survive, but the female embryos die.
“It has remained an unsolved problem,” said Patrick Ferree, the paper’s lead author and a postdoctoral researcher in the lab of co-author Daniel Barbash, an assistant professor of molecular biology and genetics. “The question is, what are the elements that are killing these female hybrids and how are they doing that?”
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New Giant Rat, Pygmy Possum Discovered

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December 17, 2007Mammal expert Martua Sinaga holds a 3-pound (1.4-kilogram) rat that may be a species new to science. The rat was found in the remote Foja Mountains of western New Guinea, Indonesia, on a June 2007 expedition, experts announced yesterday.

Researchers from Conservation International and the Indonesia Institute of Science had previously discovered several new species of plants and animals during a trip to the pristine rain forest region in 2005.

When the team returned to the Fojas this summer, they found the rat along with a pygmy possum that could also be a previously unrecorded species.

“The giant rat is about five times the size of a typical city rat,” Kristofer Helgen, a scientist with the Smithsonian Institution in Washington, D.C., said in a press statement. “With no fear of humans, it apparently came into the camp several times during the trip.”

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A pygmy possum of the genus Cercartetus was found this June in Indonesia's pristine Foja Mountains and could be a species new to science.

Experts with Conservation International described the mini-mammal as one of the world's smallest marsupials.

A previous expedition to the Fojas in 2005 had revealed for the first time that a rare forest marsupial, the golden-mantled tree kangaroo, made its home in the same remote region on the island of New Guinea. The kangaroo was among dozens of species of plants and animals discovered during that trip.

(source)

New Species Of Frog Discovered: Smallest Indian Land Vertebrate

The India’s smallest land vertebrate, a 10-millimeter frog, has been discovered from the Western Ghats of Kerala by Delhi University Systematics Biologist, S D Biju and his colleagues.

frog smallest This tiny Indian frog sitting on an Indian 5 rupee coin is the smallest India frog. (Credit: Image courtesy of University of Delhi)

Indian land vertebrates (all animals with backbone except fishes), comprises of 2,400 species including 218 frog species.

S D Biju and his colleagues discovered the tiny night frog living under leaf litter and among the roots of ferns in the humid rainforest of the Western Ghats of Kerala, a mountainous region in the western portion of India. Biju gave a new name for the frog, Nyctibatrachus minimus.

With adult males of barely 10 mm in length, Nyctibatrachus minimus is the smallest of all known Indian land vertebrates and compete with miniature frogs in other parts of the world, including Cuba, the Amazon and Borneo.

This frog can be found during nighttime (hence the common name of the genus- Nightfrog) and also can be heard (mating calls) from under the leaf litter during monsoon months, the ideal time for reproduction.

Biju has been working in the Western Ghats to find new species of frogs over the past several years, and his findings include the purple frog (Nasikabatrachus) and the first canopy frog (Philautus nerostagona) from India.

The discovery was published recently in the Journal Current Science.

(source)

Man Smuggles Chihuahua Through Airport Scanner

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Arirport security staff who passed a handbag through an x ray scanner discovered a live chihuahua hidden inside.
The tiny dog, hidden in a cage within the luggage, arrived in the airport on a flight from Madrid with a Bulgarian man Photo: GETTY
Customs officers at Dublin Airport at first believed the dog was a stuffed toy when the outline appeared on the monitor, but discovered it was a live animal when they opened up the bag for closer inspection.

The tiny dog, hidden in a cage within the luggage, arrived in the airport on a flight from Madrid with a Bulgarian man.It was found smuggled in his hand luggage when it was scanned through an x-ray machine and the image of the animal flashed up on screen.

The dog has now been handed over to officials from the Department of Agriculture and Food and is currently in quarantine.

A Revenue spokesman said officers had “discovered a Chihuahua-type toy dog which had been placed in a small cage and hidden in a holdall bag.”

He added: “When Customs officers examined the luggage the image of a dog in a small cage appeared on the X-ray screen.

“The dog appears to be in good health although a little dopey from the journey.”

The Bulgarian man was arrested at Dublin Airport

(source)

New Species Discovered In The Greater Mekong At Risk Of Extinction

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Leopard gecko. A bird eating fanged frog, a gecko that looks like it’s from another planet and a bird which would rather walk than fly, are among the 163 new species discovered in the Greater Mekong region last year that are now at risk of extinction

A bird-eating fanged frog, a gecko that looks like it’s from another planet, and a bird which would rather walk than fly — these are among the 163 new species discovered in the Greater Mekong region last year that are now at risk of extinction, says a new report launched by WWF.

During 2008 alone, scientists identified these rare and unique species within the jungles and rivers of the Greater Mekong, including a bird eating fanged frog that lies in streams waiting for prey, one of only four new species of musk shrew to be described in recent times, and a leopard gecko whose “other world” appearance – orange eyes, spindly limbs and technicolour skin – inspired the report’s title Close Encounters.
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Ancient And Bizarre Fish Discovered: New Species Of Ghostshark From California And Baja California

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New species are not just discovered in exotic locales—even places as urban as California still yield discoveries of new plants and animals. Academy scientists recently named a new species of chimaera, an ancient and bizarre group of fishes distantly related to sharks, from the coast of Southern California and Baja California, Mexico.

The new species, the Eastern Pacific black ghostshark (Hydrolagus melanophasma), was described in the September issue of the international journal Zootaxa by a research team including Academy Research Associates David Ebert and Douglas J. Long. Additional co-authors included Kelsey James, a graduate student at Moss Landing Marine Laboratories, and Dominique Didier from Millersville University in Pennsylvania. This is the first new species of cartilaginous fish to be described from California waters since 1947.
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