New Guinea's animal world contains a vast diversity of species and has its origins in Australia. Approx. 50,000 years ago New Guinea and Australia were joined and formed one continent. Many of the species are purely endemic, it means they are only found in New Guinea. To provide a listing of all the species would simply be beyond my scope of work. Nevertheless I wish to focus on the most important kinds.
1. Mammals / Marsupials 2 Birds 3. Snakes 4. Crocodiles 5. Lizards 6. Butterflies 7. Insects 8. Fish 9. Spiders
1. Mammals / Marsupials
In total there are 180 types of mammals. Most of which are nocturnals. The marsupials are represented by ca. 70 different species. There are different types of opossums, martens, mice, cuscus, wallabies and tree kangaroos. The echidna belongs to the mammals, whereas it lays eggs and is endemic and a so-called cloaca animal. A further 130 mammals are represented by 70 types of bats, 56 kinds of rodents and two cloaca animals.
In the sea there are also several kinds of Mammals known.
Douzends of whales and dolphins are well-known here:
Species: Cetacea (Whale)
Family: Delphinidae (Dolphins)
Species: Sirenia (Seacow)
The sea around New Guinea hosts dozens of species of whales and dolphins. In particular we have to pinpoint the dugong, which is a relative to the South American Manati.
Family: Dugongidae (Dugongs) Species / kind: Dugong sp. (Dugong)
More than 700 different kinds of birds are found in New Guinea, 454 of which are only found in New Guinea and reproduce all year round. 36 kinds are endemic which means that they are only found in New Guinea; the bird of paradise is only one of them. In total there are 43 known types of birds of paradise. Remarkable is the tallest kind of pigeon in the world, a crow pigeon which is also endemic. The Casuar Bird needs mention, it belongs to the family of ostriches, emus and kiwis. This bird is unable to fly and they reach a height of 1.80 m and weigh up to 80 kg. This bird is not only an important source of nutrition for the Papuas, its upper and lower thigh bones are made into knives. The entire bird is virtually recycled into: jewellery and ornaments are made from feathers, arrow heads from bones, spear heads from the long toe nails, and several other tools, like carving equipment. The Casuar Birds' main diet consists of fruit, berries and various small animals, which it picks from the ground. In self-defence the casuar bird will strike at any time at people when it is attacked or being cornered. Frequent fatal accidents are caused by their sharp, fierce claws.
By now more than 200 species of snakes are known to exist in New Guinea which live in the mountain regions of up 3000 m high. Many thereof are venomous. Special mention is to be given to three types: The taipan (oxyuranus scutellatus) which reaches a total length of 3 metres. It has a nerve venom which is said to be the strongest of all known venoms; the taipan is active during the day. The death adders (achanthopsis antarcticus). This adder only reaches a length of ca 80 cm and exists widely in the region. It has a broad shaped head and a short tail and can easily be taken as a viper. In ca 50% the bites are fatal. The Papua king brown snake (pseudechis papuanus) should also be taken seriously. It grows to a length of ca 2.50 m. The most beautiful and non-venomous snakes are the green tree python (chondropthon viridis) and the emerald green python. In their idle position they evenly spread the body over two branches and rest the head in the middle. Likewise, the dog head boa rests in this position.
There are two different types of crocodiles in New Guinea. The New Guinea Crocodile and the Salt Water Crocodile. The first kind grows rarely longer than 4 m and predominantly lives on fish. The Salt Water Croc however can grow to up to 10 m and exists in salt and fresh water. It will easily feed on humans.
They belong to the family of "Varandidae" and there are more than 50 of its kind. They all live in the tropics and mainly vary in size. The lizards are fierce, ruthless robbers and feed on all animals they can get to.
More informations you will found at the Lizards page.
Special recognition is given to bird butterflies (Ornithoptera spp) because they are the largest butterflies on earth which is active during the day. Most varieties are to be found on the Birds Eye in the Arfak Mountains.
Many thousand species are known in New Guinea whereas this only represents one third of all documented types. For example the interesting 25 cm long locusts or the praying mantis which exists in many different colours. In the course of evolution the grasshoppers have totally adapted to their environment. Many insects are entirely camouflaged by their surroundings and therefore less in danger to be eaten by enemies.
More than 1000 fish species are named in New Guinea. It is estimated that up to 3000 undocumented species live in the unique and still unspoiled coral reeves of New Guinea. Alone 20 types of sharks are at home there. The fresh water rivers host 158 kinds of rainbow fish. These tiny, very colourful fish are only known to exist in New Guinea and Australia. Also big fish occupy the fresh water ways of New Guinea. One example is the sawfish, which grows up to 5 m in length. It is known that the extremely rare fresh water sharks are found in the Yamur Lake in the Bird Eye Mountains.
It is estimated that there are now about 3000 classified spiders. These are divided in two types. One kind traps their catch in the spider web and the other kind are predominantly jump spiders. They do not build webs. They hunt during the day. They tend to stay in hiding and then jump at their prey when not expected. This is where the name originates. Their catch it is quickly poisoned. The other variety are the Sparasides, which tend to spend their days lazing in trees and branches. They adapt to their environment and only start hunting for food after dusk. Another kind of spider builds nets or wheels, in particular the wheel spider (Nephila maculata) which is capable of creating wheels with a diameter of 1 m. The threat can be up to 6 m long. The Cyrtophora spiders build webs together with other spiders and in their concerted effort they can achieve to cover big areas made of hundreds of wheels. Taller insects and even birds are being shared amongst each other.
Text and pictures İHarald Melcher 1999/2000
This page arise in cooperation with following persons:
Wales / Dolphines / Dugongs