Three new species discovered in Australia

The Blotched Boulder Frog is a newly discovered species living in the Australian rainforest.
Conrad Hoskin

Making love in the rain just took on scientific significance.

A new species of frog discovered recently in Australia lives in a boulder field devoid of the usual bodies of water that frogs use as breeding grounds. But that doesn't stop this fertile species from making babies.

Instead, the Blotched Boulder Frog emerges from the rocks to "feed and breed" when it's raining, according to researchers at James Cook University in Queensland, Australia.

After procreating, it lays its eggs in the moist rock cracks. The male frog guards the eggs as tadpoles develop inside.

The Blotched Boulder Frog (Cophixalus pertophilus) is one of three vertebrates discovered during a joint expedition of researchers from Harvard University, James Cook University and National Geographic. The team was among the first to explore the rainforests of Cape Melville, an area along the northern tip of Queensland that features hundreds of black granite boulders, some as large as houses.

"Finding three new, obviously distinct vertebrates would be surprising enough in somewhere poorly explored like New Guinea, let alone in Australia, a country we think we've explored pretty well," expedition leader Conrad Hoskin said in a James Cook press release.

Along with the rain-loving frog, Hoskin and Harvard's Tim Laman discovered a gecko (Saltuarius eximius) that only hunts at night. The Cape Melville Leaf-Tailed Gecko can grow to nearly 8 inches in length.

They described it as "primitive-looking" lizard. Like the frog, it hides in the boulders until conditions are right. Come nightfall, the lizard sits motionless as it preys on insects and spiders.

The third species identified is the Cape Melville Shade Skink (Saproscincus saltus). It is also lanky, with a golden hue. Unlike the leaf-tailed gecko, this quick species hunts in day light, catching insects as it hops across mossy boulders.

"These species are restricted to the upland rainforest and boulder fields of Cape Melville. They've been isolated there for millennia, evolving into distinct species in their unique rocky environment," said Hoskin.

He expects future expeditions to the "lost world" to unveil additional new species.

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    Danielle Elliot is a freelance science editor and reporter for CBS News. She holds an M.A. in science and health journalism from Columbia University and a B.A. in broadcast journalism from the University of Maryland. Follow her on Twitter - @daniellelliot.