Our Beautiful World

Papua New Guinea

Papua New Guinea (PNG; Tok Pisin: Papua Niugini), officially the Independent State of Papua New Guinea, is a country in Oceania,
occupying the eastern half of the island of New Guinea and numerous offshore islands (the western portion of the island is a part of the
Indonesian provinces of Papua and West Papua). It is located in the southwestern Pacific Ocean, in a region defined since the early
19th century as Melanesia. The capital is Port Moresby.

Papua New Guinea is one of the most culturally diverse countries on Earth, with over 850 indigenous languages and at least as many
traditional societies, out of a population of just under seven million. (No, we are not going to describe all those different societies
here, but we will try to give you an impression of the country's fauna.)
It is also one of the most rural, as only 18% of its people
live in urban centres. The country is one of the world's least explored, culturally and geographically, and many undiscovered species
of plants and animals are thought to exist in the interior of Papua New Guinea.

Map of Melanesia, with the volcanoes of Papua.
At 462,840 km2 (178,704 sq mi), Papua New Guinea is the world's fifty-fourth largest country. Including all its islands, it lies
between latitudes 0° and 12°S, and longitudes 140° and 160°E.

The country's geography is diverse and, in places, extremely rugged. A spine of mountains, the New Guinea Highlands, runs the length
of the island of New Guinea, forming a populous highlands region mostly covered with tropical rainforest. Dense rainforests can be
found in the lowland and coastal areas as well as very large wetland areas surrounding the Sepik and Fly rivers. This terrain has made
it difficult for the country to develop transportation infrastructure. In some areas, airplanes are the only mode of transport.

The highest peak is Mount Wilhelm at 4,509 metres. Papua New Guinea is surrounded by coral reefs which are under close watch.

The country is situated on the Pacific Ring of Fire, at the point of collision of several tectonic plates. There are a number of active volcanoes, and eruptions are frequent. Earthquakes are relatively common, sometimes accompanied by tsunamis.

Manam volcano, November 28th, 2004, 18.00 local time

Some of those volcanoes are described on our pages, as Manam, Manam-peope and the eruption, Pago, Rabaul, Ulawun,
Mt. Lamington, and Langila (on New Britain). Unfortunately only the two first articles are in english, the others in norwegian, but
pictures are to be understood anyway.....

The mainland of the country is the eastern half of New Guinea island, where the largest towns are also located, including the capital
Port Moresby and Lae; other major islands within Papua New Guinea include New Ireland, New Britain, Manus and Bougainville.

Papua New Guinea is one of the few regions close to the equator that experiences snowfall, which occurs in the most elevated parts
of the mainland.

The Admiralty Islands are a group of eighteen islands in the Bismarck Archipelago, to the north of New Guinea in the south Pacific
Ocean. These are also sometimes called the Manus Islands, after the largest island. These rainforest-covered islands form part of
Manus Province, the smallest and least-populous province of Papua New Guinea. The total area is 2,100 km2 (810 sq mi).
Many of the islands are atolls and uninhabited.

Due to the isolated location, the rain forests of the Admiralty Islands are home to rare and endemic species of birds, bats and other animals and are considered a separate ecoregion, the Admiralty Islands lowland rain forests. The majority of the forests on Manus still remain, but some of the smaller islands have been cleared for coconut farming. The typical tree species are various Calophyllum and Sararanga species

Superb Pitta, Pitta superba

The Superb Pitta, Pitta superba, is a large pitta, approximately 22cm long. It has black plumage with turquoise
blue wings, a scarlet belly and green-tipped secondaries. Both sexes are almost similar. The female is a slightly
smaller and duller than the male.

ARKive video - Blue bird-of-paradise - overview
Blue bird-of-paradise - overview
Video: ABC Library Sales, Melbourne. Audio: BBC Natural History Sound Library


The Blue Bird-of-paradise, Paradisaea rudolphi, is a medium-sized bird-of-paradise.

Regarded by some ornithologists as the loveliest of all birds, the Blue Bird-of-paradise was discovered by
Carl Hunstein in 1884. The scientific name commemorates the ill-fated Crown Prince Rudolf of Austria.

Due to ongoing habitat loss, limited range, small population size and hunting in some areas for its highly prized
plumes, the rare Blue Bird-of-paradise is classified as Vulnerable on the IUCN Red List of Threatened Species.

Three of the bird species endemic to Admiralty Islands have been listed as vulnerable in the IUCN Red List:
Manus Fantail, Rhipidura semirubra, Superb Pitta, Pitta superba and Manus Masked Owl, Tyto manusi. Three other birds are
endemic to Admiralty Islands but are classified as non-threatened or least concern: White-naped Friarbird, Philemon albitorques, Manus Monarch, Monarcha infelix and Manus Hawk Owl, Ninox meeki. Birds found mainly but not exclusively on the Admiralty
Islands include Melanesian Megapode, Megapodius eremita, Yellow-bibbed Fruit-dove, Ptilinopus solomonensis, Yellowish Imperial-pigeon, Ducula subflavescens, Pied Cuckoo-dove, Reinwardtoena browni, Meek's Pygmy Parrot, Micropsitta meeki, Black-headed White-eye, Zosterops hypoxanthus and Ebony Myzomela, Myzomela pammelaena.

Yellow-bibbed Fruit-dove, Ptilinopus solomonensis

Order: Columbiformes, Family: Columbidae, Genus: Ptilinopus, Species: Ptilinopus solomonensis

Meek's Pygmy Parrot, Micropsitta meeki

Mammals found only here or on nearby island groups include the large fruit bats, Admiralty Flying-fox, Pteropus admiralitatum, Andersen's naked-backed fruit bat, Dobsonia anderseni, and Seri's Sheathtail-Bat, Emballonura serii, while the two pure-endemics are Admiralty Island Cuscus, Spilocuscus kraemeri, and a local Mosaic-Tailed Rat, Melomys matambuai. The islands
are home to two endemic Platymantis frogs, Platymantis admiraltiensis, and Platymantis latro, and four lizards, while the
Emerald green snail of Manus was the first terrestrial snail to be listed as vulnerable by the IUCN.

Andersen's naked-backed fruit bat, Dobsonia anderseni

The numbers of global and New Guinea invertebrate species are poorly known, and thus an accurate comparison is difficult.
Butterflies are the best known invertebrate group, and are represented in New Guinea by about 735 species, which is about
4.2% of the world total of 17,500 species.

The mammal fauna of New Guinea is composed of all extant subclasses of mammal: the monotremes*), placentals and marsupials *).
New Guinea contains the largest number of monotreme species of any land mass, with only one species absent: the Platypus (Ornithorhynchus anatinus). The marsupial fauna of New Guinea is diverse, consisting of the three orders: Dasyuromorphia, Peramelemorphia and Diprotodontia.

Monotremes are mammals that lay eggs (Prototheria) instead of giving birth to live young like marsupials (Metatheria) and placental
mammals (Eutheria). The only examples of monotremes are all indigenous to Australia and New Guinea. They include the platypus
and four species of echidnas (or spiny anteaters).

The three living Zaglossus species are endemic to New Guinea. They are rare and are hunted for food.
They forage in leaf litter on the forest floor, eating earthworms and insects. The species are:
Western long-beaked echidna, Zaglossus bruijni, of the highland forests
Sir David's long-beaked echidna, Zaglossus attenboroughi, described in 1961 and preferring a still higher habitat
Eastern long-beaked echidna, Zaglossus bartoni, of which four distinct subspecies have been identified

Western long-beaked echidna
The echidna is one of a handful of mammals to give birth to its offspring by laying eggs

The western long-beaked echidna is present in New Guinea, in regions of elevation between 1,300 and 4,000
metres; it is absent from the southern lowlands and north coast. Its preferred habitats are alpine meadow and
humid montane forests. Unlike the short-beaked echidna, which eats ants and termites, the long-beaked species
eats earthworms. The long-beaked echidna is also larger than the short-beaked species, reaching up to 16.5
kilograms ; the snout is longer and turns downward; and the spines are almost indistinguishable from the long fur.
It is distinguished from the other Zaglossus species by the number of claws on the fore and hind feet: three (rarely four). It is the largest extant monotreme.
Marsupials are an infraclass of mammals, characterized by giving birth to relatively undeveloped young. Close to 70% of the 334
extant species occur in Australia, New Guinea, and nearby islands, with the remaining 100 found in the Americas, primarily in
South America, but with thirteen in Central America, and one in North America, north of Mexico.

Bosavi woolly rat.
BBC film crew make discoveries in Papua New Guinea September 2009.
A new species of giant rat is one of 40 new species discovered on a recent expedition to a remote
rainforest in Papua New Guinea. Weighing in at 1.5kg, and measuring 82cm from nose to tail,
the Bosavi Woolly Rat is one of the biggest rats in the world - as big as a domestic cat.
© Photograph: Jonny Keeling/BBC

Bosavi Silky Cuscus - Another major new find
The BBC expedition also found another unique type of mammal called the Bosavi Silky Cuscus.
The animal - which looks like a small bear - is a marsupial that lives up trees, feeding on fruits and leaves.
Weighing in at over 2kg, it has dense silky fur adapted for a mountain environment. Like the giant rat,
the Bosavi Silky Cuscus also appeared to have no fear of man, suggesting these animals have never
come into contact with humans before.

The native placental mammals are solely represented by the rodents and bats. There are approximately the same number of
placental species as maruspials and monotremes.

The carnivorous marsupials, Dasyuromorphia, of New Guinea are all small in comparison to Australian species, and most are
insectivorous. The largest is the Bronze Quoll, Dasyurus spartacus, a rare quoll, first discovered in southern New Guinea in 1979.
It reaches a snout to vent length of 36 centimetres.

The kangaroos, Macropodidae, of New Guinea are very varied in their ecology and behaviour. Those closely related to the
Australian kangaroos, such as the Agile Wallaby, Macropus agilis,, inhabit the open grasslands of New Guinea. However,
the tree-kangaroos, which are mostly endemic to New Guinea, are different in appearance and behaviour. As suggested by their
name, they are arboreal. They have a long, thick tail which enable them to balance in trees, and large, strong forearms for gripping
to trees. Two species of tree kangaroos are also found in Australia.

The cuscus, family Phalangeridae, are a family of marsupials closely related to the possums of Australia. The cuscus have evolved in New Guinea, and are found throughout the island. Most species are dark brown or black, however two species, the Common Spotted Cuscus (Spilocuscus maculatus) and Black Spotted Cuscus (Spilocuscus rufoniger), are black, orange and yellow.

ARKive video - Pig-nosed turtle - overview
Video: ABC Library Sales, Melbourne.
Audio: BBC Natural History Unit
& Granada Wild

ARKive video - Pig-nosed turtle eggs hatching and hatchlings

Pig-nosed turtle eggs hatching and hatchlings
Video: ABC Library Sales, Melbourne.
Audio: BBC Natural History Unit


The pig-nosed turtle, Carettochelys insculpta, also known as the pitted-shelled turtle or fly river turtle, is a species of
turtle native to freshwater streams, lagoons and rivers of Australia and New Guinea. This species is the only member
of the genus Carettochelys, the subfamily Carettochelyinae and the family Carettochelyidae.

The pig-nosed turtle is unlike any other species of freshwater turtle in the world. It is the best adapted turtle to an aquatic
lifestyle, with the exception of marine turtles. The carapace is typically grey or olive in colour, with a leathery texture,
while the plastron is cream-coloured. The feet are flippers, resembling those of marine turtles. The nose looks like that of
a pig, having the nostrils at the end of a fleshy snout, hence the common name. Males can be distinguished from females
by their longer and narrower tails. Pig-nosed turtles can grow to about 70 centimetres shell-length, with a weight of
over 20 kilograms.

The species is omnivorous, eating a wide variety of plant and animal matter, including the fruit and leaves of figs as well
as crustaceans, molluscs and insects. They are also well known to eat the bodies of kangaroos, cattle and any other dead
animals that make their way into the river systems where they live.


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