Scientists have discovered more than 50 new animal species in Papua New Guinea in an expedition in the country.

The discoveries were made by Conservation International which last year led a Rapid Assessment Program (RAP) expedition to the Kaijende highlands and Hewa wilderness of Papua New Guinea (PNG).

According to a press release by the organization, more than 600 species were documented, of which more than 50 are believed to be new, including total of 50 spider species, two plants, three frogs and one gecko.

The three frogs include a tiny brown frog with a sharp chirping call (Oreophryne sp.), a bright green tree frog with enormous eyes (Nyctimystes sp.), and a torrent-dwelling frog that has a loud ringing call (Litoria sp.). The gecko (Cyrtodactylus sp.) was the only specimen of its kind found in the dense rainforest.

"The vast Kaijende Uplands and nearby valleys represent one of Papua New Guinea's largest undeveloped highlands wilderness areas, and all of it is under the tenure of local clan landowners. These forests are essential to their traditional lifestyles," said CI scientist Steve Richards, who led the expedition.

Local clan communities rely on this wilderness area for hunting and collecting forest products, and the region is a critical source of clean drinking water to tens of thousands of valley people living in the Enga Southern Highlands, Sandaun and Western Provinces. Globally, this vast forested wilderness is critical in helping slow climate change by sequestering large amounts of the greenhouse gas carbon dioxide.

According to the press release, UBC scientist Wayne Maddison, Director of the new Beauty Biodiversity Museum, said the discovery of three entirely novel genera from among the spider species discovered is particularly noteworthy.

"They are strikingly distinctive evolutionary lineages that had been unknown before, with a group that is already very distinctive on the evolutionary tree of jumping spiders," said Maddison. "Their key position on the evolutionary tree will help us understand how this unique group of jumping spiders has evolved."

Much of Papua New Guinea's vast wilderness remains unexplored for scientific documentation. CI's RAP program is planning three more expeditions to the country in 2009 with the first beginning in early April.

Pictures and further details of the expedition and the newly discovered species are available on the organisation's website: