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Over 400 new species dis­cov­ered in Ama­zon rainforest

pub­lished 26 Octo­ber 2013 | mod­i­fied 13 Sep­tem­ber 2014

At least 441 new species of ani­mals and plants have been dis­cov­ered over a four year period in the vast, under­ex­plored rain­for­est of the Ama­zon, includ­ing a mon­key that purrs like a cat.

Callicebus caquetensis1Found between 2010 and 2013, the species include a flame-​patterned lizard, a thumbnail-​sized frog, a veg­e­tar­ian piranha, a brightly coloured snake, and a beau­ti­ful pink orchid, accord­ing to World Wildlife Fund (WWF) — the world’s lead­ing con­ser­va­tion organ­i­sa­tion, work­ing in 100 countries.

These species form a unique nat­ural her­itage that we need to con­serve. This means pro­tect­ing their home — the amaz­ing Ama­zon rain­for­est — which is under threat from defor­esta­tion and dam development
(Clau­dio Maretti, Leader of Liv­ing Ama­zon Ini­tia­tive, WWF)

Dis­cov­ered by a group of sci­en­tists and com­piled by WWF, the pdflist of new species8.52 MB num­ber 258 plants, 84 fish, 58 amphib­ians, 22 rep­tiles, 18 birds and one mam­mal. This total does not include count­less dis­cov­er­ies of insects and other inver­te­brates.

Some of the most remark­able species out­lined in the report include:

  • A shy lizard despite the warpaint:
    Gonatodes timidus
    This extraordinary-​looking species of lizard was dis­cov­ered in 2011 in the part of the Ama­zon that extends into Guyana. Iden­ti­fied in the Iwokrama For­est Reserve at the base of the Iwokrama Moun­tains, Potaro-​Siparuni Dis­trict, at 686 ft above sea level, the species dis­cov­ery high­lights the impor­tance of the Amazon’s pro­tected area net­work. The sur­face of the Lizard’s head is black with bluish white to vivid yel­low irreg­u­lar stripes and blotches. Despite this ‘warpaint’ the name given to the species, Gona­todes timidus, derives from the Latin word timidus mean­ing “shy” or “fear­ful”. It refers to the ten­dency of indi­vid­u­als of the new species to avoid to be seen by hastily escap­ing between rocks, mak­ing them very dif­fi­cult to col­lect accord­ing to scientists.

  • Thumbnail-​sized frog:
    Allobates amissibilisThis amphib­ian is already believed to be highly endan­gered. In fact, its Latin name,
    Allo­bates amis­si­bilis, mean­ing “that may be lost,” alludes to this as the area where it thrives could soon be opened to tourism. This is now the third Allo­bates species found in Guyana.

  • Veg­e­tar­ian Piranha:
    Tometes camunaniThis new species of piranha,
    Tometes camu­nani, can span 20 inches wide and weigh up to 9 pounds, and is strictly her­biv­o­rous. The fresh­wa­ter fish inhab­its rocky rapids asso­ci­ated with seedlings of plants that grow among the rocks, its main source of food. Tometes is described from the upper drainages of the Trom­be­tas River basin, Para, Brazil­ian Amazon.

  • A brightly coloured snake from the “Lost World”:
    Chironius challengerFound in the moun­tains of Guyana, this brightly-​coloured snake species was named
    Chi­ro­nius chal­lenger after Arthur C. Doyle’s fic­tional char­ac­ter Pro­fes­sor George Edward Chal­lenger in the novel, “The Lost World”.

  • A “spaghetti” pas­sion flower:
    Passiflora longifilamentosaA new species of pas­sion flower was dis­cov­ered in the rain­forests of the Brazil­ian state of Para in 2013. Pas­sion flow­ers are ever­green climbers with exotic look­ing flow­ers, often accom­pa­nied by brightly coloured fruits. Pas­si­flora is the largest genus of Pas­si­flo­raceae with an esti­mated 530 species. Together with vivid pur­ple petals, the new species dis­plays fan­tas­tic and quirky ‘noo­dles’ or ‘spaghetti’ (corona fil­a­ments) that burst out of the flower’s cen­tre. The new species, Pas­si­flora longi­fil­a­men­tosa, was col­lected in a six year old refor­ested area of Saracá-​Taquera National For­est, Pará State, in north­east­ern Brazil­ian Amazon.

  • Caqueta titi mon­key:
    Callicebus caquetensis2This new species,
    Cal­lice­bus caque­ten­sis, is one of about 20 species of titi mon­key, which all live in the Ama­zon basin. The babies have an endear­ing trait, “When they feel very con­tent they purr towards each other,” explained sci­en­tist Thomas Defler.

Many of the new dis­cov­er­ies are believed to be endemic to the Ama­zon rain­for­est and are found nowhere else in the world. This makes them even more vul­ner­a­ble to rain­for­est destruc­tion that occurs every minute across the Amazon.

“Com­pil­ing and updat­ing data on new species dis­cov­ered in the vast exten­sion of the Ama­zon over the last four years has shown us just how impor­tant the region is for human­ity and how fun­da­men­tally impor­tant it is to research it, under­stand it and con­serve it. The destruc­tion of these ecosys­tems is threat­en­ing bio­di­ver­sity and the ser­vices it pro­vides to soci­eties and economies. We can­not allow this nat­ural her­itage to be lost for­ever,” Maretti said.

This research presents a list of the new species from the Ama­zon Biome dis­cov­ered from 2010 to 2013. Describ­ing a new species refers to the offi­cial process by which a species is iden­ti­fied in the peer-​reviewed sci­en­tific lit­er­a­ture once dis­cov­ered and there­fore for­mally deter­mined as ‘new’. Species cur­rently await­ing offi­cial sci­en­tific recog­ni­tion have not been included.

This research has tried to be com­pre­hen­sive in its list­ing of new plants and ver­te­brates, but for the largest group of life on Earth, inver­te­brates, such lists do not exist — so the total num­ber of new species pre­sented here is an underestimate.
About WWF Liv­ing Ama­zon Ini­tia­tive
The Liv­ing Ama­zon Ini­tia­tive spear­heads WWF Network’s efforts to guar­an­tee an eco­log­i­cally healthy Ama­zon Biome that main­tains its envi­ron­men­tal and cul­tural con­tri­bu­tion to local peo­ples, the coun­tries of the region and the world, by main­tain­ing eco­log­i­cal processes and ser­vices within a frame­work of that pro­pi­ti­ates inclu­sive eco­nomic devel­op­ment with social equity and global responsibility.

(Source: WWF press release, 23.10.2013)

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