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.
Found 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.
Discovered by a group of scientists and compiled by WWF, the list 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:
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:
This 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:
This 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”:
Found 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:
A 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:
This 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.
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)