Plant and animal species that have remained almost unchanged for the past few million years live in the forests, the deserts, the seas and even our own backyards.
As our living ancestors, they give us a view of lost worlds. And because they preserve ancient pieces of genetic code, living relics should be a priority for conservation, says Piotr Naskrecki.
Naskrecki, a photographer and biologist, is the author of Relics: Travels in Nature’s Time Machine, to be published in November. The book catalogs Naskrecki’s travels to areas of the world that act as sanctuaries, harboring life that has remained essentially unchanged for eons.
“This book grew as a side project from my fascination with these old lineages,” Naskrecki said. “But as a conservation biologist, I feel they deserve a spotlight, as capsules that preserve ancient diversity.”
We asked Naskrecki to share some of his favorite photos
Images: Piotr Naskrecki.
Living among the trees of Papua New Guinea, forest dragons -- like Hypsilurus dilophus, pictured here -- are sit-and-wait predators. Scanning for insects and small invertebrates, they remain still until the time to strike is perfect. These lizards, distantly related to dinosaurs, are part of Papuan forest fauna, which preserves fragments of Sahul, the continent that existed before New Guinea and Australia became two separate islands.
Because they were once part of the same land mass, Australia and Papua New Guinea share many similar plants and animals, such as marsupial or monotreme mammals. But while Australia lost most of its natural rainforests, and became a far drier place, Papua New Guinea retains the ancient Sahul-like woods, and many of the original inhabitants.