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Bizarre gecko discovered in remote Australian rain forest

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High in the mountains of northeastern Australia, scientists have discovered three intriguing animals that are brand new to science, and you can see all three of them in the photo gallery above.

They include the bizarre-looking leaf-tailed gecko (Saltuarius eximius) with its giant eyes and broad leaf-shaped tail; the golden shade skink (Saproscincus saltus), which resembles a short snake with legs; and an elegant little frog (Cophixalus petrophilus) that spends most of its life in the cool moist cracks between the black granite boulders strewn across the top of the mountain range.

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The newly discovered creatures, recently described in the journal Zootaxa, make their home in a rain forest at the top of the Cape Melville mountain range. The rain forest is surrounded by massive boulder walls that have made it difficult to explore, according to a release from James Cook University in Queensland. To make their discoveries, researchers Conrad Hoskin of James Cook University and Tim Laman of National Geographic and Harvard University arrived at the naturally barricaded rain forest via helicopter.

What they found was a bizarre, misty landscape where massive black granite boulders were stacked in towering piles as much as 300 feet high. And living among these boulder fields were animals that had likely been isolated from the rest of the world for millions of years.

The Cape Melville leaf-tailed gecko, which grows to about 8 inches in length, spends its days hiding in the boulders, emerging at night to hunt on rocks and trees. The researchers say its huge eyes and long slender body help it thrive in the poorly lighted boulder fields.

The skink, dubbed the Cape Melville Shade Skink, has also developed a long thin body to help it navigate the rocky landscape, but it is active during the day. The researchers describe it leaping and jumping across moss-covered rocks hunting for insects.

The little Blotched Boulder frog emerges from the crevices in the rocks only to eat and mate when the rains come.

"You might wonder how a frog's tadpoles can live in a 'hollow' boulder-field with no water sitting around," said Hoskin in a statement. "The answer is that the eggs are laid in moist rock cracks and the tadpoles develop within the eggs, guarded by the male, until fully-formed froglets hatch out."

The researchers think there may be other unidentified species lurking in this bizarre landscape.

Creepy looking geckos and elegant frogs are just the beginning! Follow me on Twitter for more stories like this.

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