The tepuis of northern South America–tabletop mountains ringed by sheer cliffs rising up thousands of feet–inspired Sir Arthur Conan Doyle’s novel The Lost World. Doyle envisioned dinosaurs and other primordial creatures surviving on these remote islands in the sky.
It turns out that the tepuis are indeed ancient vestiges. The surrounding land eroded away 70 million years ago. Biologists have long been fascinated by the plants and animals that live on top of them today. In many cases, the species on a tepui are found nowhere else on Earth. Many have argued for the wonderfully-named “Lost World Hypothesis”–the unique species of the tepuis been stranded up there for 70 million years.
In tomorrow’s New York Times, I report on a team of scientists who tested that hypothesis by looking at the DNA of frogs that live on tepuis. And for them, at least, the hypothesis fails. Somehow, those tiny frogs managed to scale walls that strike fear in even the toughest rock climbers. For the full details, check out the story.