Posted by: Loren Coleman on April 26th, 2007
NEW DISCOVERY: A handful of never-before-seen lizards has been discovered in The Sinbad Valley, tucked away in a corner of Fiordland.
Hollywood has its dinosaur-infested lost islands, now one of New Zealand’s last unspoilt wildernesses can boast a few reptilian surprises of its own.
The Sinbad Valley, tucked away in a corner of Fiordland, has revealed a range of weird and wonderful new species over the years, including wetas and other insects.
But now a handful of never before seen lizards – distant relatives of dinosaurs – have set scientists’ pulses racing.
Landcare Research biologist Trent Bell went into the lost valley last month aiming to find a species first discovered by a group of rock climbers in 2004.
He returned with more than he bargained for – three previously unknown species of skink.
Many of the small lizards were found on rocky outcrops at high altitude, with some proving difficult to catch, including one goggle-eyed beast which had since been dubbed “the little Sinbad skink”.
“It was a funny-looking bugger, with huge eyes and big feet. I knew it was something not known to science.”
Bell said the discoveries were hugely important to science and work was now under way to identify the new species from photographs and DNA samples.
“The realisation that we’re dealing with a large, stocky and entirely new species has led us to question what else is out there in the alpine areas of Fiordland,” Bell said.
The Sinbad Valley runs alongside Milford Sound and until several years ago was home to the last kakapo naturally surviving on the Mainland.
Conservation Department Te Anau area acting manager Beth Masser said the Sinbad Valley was a deep basin carved out during the last Ice Age.
In the past 200 years it had proved difficult for invasive species to access, she said. Unique species had evolved in isolation and survived despite rats, stoats and other pests.The Dominion Post