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Featured News Mystery creatures yet to be discovered

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Wed, 10 Nov 2021

Mystery creatures yet to be discovered

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New animal species may yet be found in North Queensland's rainforests.

Never-before-seen species may be waiting to be found in the treetops of North Queensland’s rainforests, according to a James Cook University researcher.

Centre for Tropical Environmental and Sustainability Science (TESS) Director Professor Bill Laurance said the region’s rainforest canopies could be home to new discoveries, but he believes it’s unlikely creatures such as the mythical Yowie are lurking in the bush.

“It’s often said that half to two-thirds of all insect species from rainforest canopies might well be undescribed species unknown to science,” Prof Laurance said.

“TESS is helping to reveal the secrets of the rainforest, both in this part of the world and in more than 40 other nations around the globe.

“We’re not the only ones doing it but we’re certainly very active and we’re also trying to study and address some of the most serious challenges to the survival of biodiversity.”

Prof Laurance said with the benefits of new technology, researchers were even re-examining old artefacts in museums in an attempt to unlock genetic secrets.

“They’re doing genetic analyses on things like study skins, which are preserved animal bones and skin, and skeletons. They’re finding lots of hidden bits of information that were previously undiscovered or not appreciated at the time,” he said.

“Left, right and centre, we are discovering new species around the world all the time.”

TESS, which boasts about 160 scientists working across the region, has been credited with re-discovering a population of the endangered northern bettong. The population was previously thought to be extinct until it was found by TESS researcher Dr Sandra Abell.

Prof Laurance, who has written on the benefits of cryptozoology in unintentionally finding new animal species, helped to organise an expedition in Cape York to search for the supposedly extinct Tasmanian Tiger (Thylacine) in 2017.

While the expedition was unsuccessful, more than 100,000 photos were analysed by the team, including a spine-tingling photograph of a dog-like creature.

“It was a really weird thing but I could tell right away it wasn’t a Thylacine,” Prof Laurance said.

“After staring at the photo for a bit, I think it was a dingo that must have stuck its head inside the carcass of a freshly killed animal and its head got all covered in blood. Then that blood dried and it turned into this black, weird facemask.

“It was a really peculiar-looking animal.”

As for whether or not the feared Yowie could exist in North Queensland, Prof Laurance said it was very unlikely.

Contacts

Media enquiries: michael.serenc@jcu.edu.au