Sea Slugs, Wombats, Microbes

Richard Fortey

  • The Species Seekers: Heroes, Fools and the Mad Pursuit of Life on Earth by Richard Conniff
    Norton, 464 pp, £19.99, November 2010, ISBN 978 0 393 06854 2

An expedition to a hidden valley in Papua New Guinea in 2009 discovered a habitat whose living creatures had never been catalogued, a place so remote that even the people who live in the local highlands had never penetrated its rainforest. The explorers came across an unnamed species of woolly rat that was not afraid of human beings, probably because it had never seen any before: the wariness that we inspire in the animal kingdom above the level of the earthworm had yet to reach this remote spot. The entomologist George McGavin’s eyes still light up when he describes the strange insects he recognised there as species distinct from all those previously known to science. As well as esoteric specialities, there were huge beetles and an ant that had evolved to resemble a spider.

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