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Huge Cave, New Poison-Dart Frog Found in Venezuela

A cave so huge helicopters can fly into it has just been discovered deep in the hills of a South American jungle paradise.

Actually, "Cueva del Fantasma" — Spanish for "Cave of the Ghost" — is so vast that two helicopters can comfortably fly into it and land next to a towering waterfall.

It was found in the slopes of the Aprada tepui in southeastern Venezuela, near the Brazilian and Guyanese borders, in one of the most inaccessible and unexplored regions of the world.

Tepuis are huge mesas, similar to those found in the American Southwest, that rise sharply out of the rainforest floor. On their cool, misty tops live uncounted unique species, totally cut off from the warm jungle below.

The tepuis, and the area's general isolation, make the Venezuelan Guiana, and corresponding sections in neighboring countries, one of the most biologically rich, geologically ancient and unspoiled parts of the world.

This is the first geographic report and photographic evidence of such an immense cave. However, researchers say, it isn’t really a cave, but a huge, collapsed, steep gorge.

As a bonus, researchers also discovered a new dendrobatid frog species, Colostethus breweri, named for the frog’s identifier, Charles Brewer-Carías.

Dendrobatid frogs make up the group of amphibians commonly known as "poison dart" frogs.

This is the second report recently to describe a newfound paradise of sorts containing previously unknown animal species.

Scientists distinguished C. breweri from its close relatives by its particular skin pattern, absence of fringes on fingers, moderate toe webbing, tongue characteristics and yellow and orange coloration on its undersides.

It is described as a fast-moving frog that lives along creeks and in quiet pools along small streams along the slopes near the cave.

This is the eighteenth described species of Colostethus discovered in Venezuelan Guiana.

This discovery, not widely reported, was detailed in the Jan. 17 issue of the journal Zootaxa.

Copyright © 2006 Imaginova Corp. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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