University of Michigan Museum of Zoology

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Division of Reptiles and Amphibians receives collection from Papua New Guinea


Dr. Fred Kraus has been conducting biotic surveys in Papua New Guinea for the last twelve years resulting in the discovery of about 120 new species of amphibians and reptiles. One of the major goals of this research program is to better understand the patterns of local regional endemism among the Papuan herpetofauna. New Guinea has a complex geological history involving the accretion of arcs of formerly offshore islands onto the northern margin of the Australian continental plate, and this has resulted in a large amount of rapid mountain building. As a consequence, a great number of the region’s reptiles and amphibians do not range across the entire island but are restricted to narrower regions of particular geological origin. For example, most of the species found in the southeastern peninsula of New Guinea do not occur in the Central Highlands, and vice versa. Similar results apply as well to the north-coast mountain ranges and the southern lowlands with respect to each other and to the first two areas. As a result, each of these regions has a distinctive herpetofauna that differs significantly from those of the other regions. Further, within any given region it is frequently the case that single isolated mountains, small mountain ranges, or offshore islands will have developed their own endemic species having even more restricted distributions. Sorting out these patterns of endemism is critical for setting efficient conservation priorities in the region because it is better to devote limited funding and effort to protecting regions harboring many local unique species than to regions with fewer.

The shipment from PNG is delivered to the Museum.
Everything is unpacked. The tissue samples are stored in the freezer.  The specimens must be carefully unwrapped.
Once unwrapped, the specimens are soaked in several changes of water to remove the formalin fixative.
Dr. Kraus shows John Marino (Graduate Student Curatorial Assistant) and Mike Grunder (post graduate research assistant) how to identify microhylid frogs.
John Marino continues sorting the collection and placing specimens in separate jars by species.
Now that the specimens have been sorted and identified, the collection is ready to be catalogued. Fred and Mike share experiences about field work in New Guinea.
A couple of small microhylid frogs from the collection. (Many of these small microhylids are yet to be described.)
A couple of larger frogs in the collection.  (The frog on the left, Callulops doriae, is a larger microhylid.)