With scales like silver and an astonishing rainbow tinted head, this new species of snake discovered among the cliffs of northern Laos has been likened somewhat to David Bowie's alter ego Ziggy Stardust. The beautiful serpent is actually just one of 163 new species discovered in the region announced by the latest WWF report, Species Oddity. And they just keep turning up new species.
The organization has been compiling reports on new species found in the region since 1997, with this latest addition bringing the total number of new plants, birds, mammals, reptiles, fish and amphibians discovered in the Greater Mekong to an impressive 2,409 over that period.
This year’s report, which documents those species unearthed in 2015, includes among its numbers a newt that looks like a Klingon from Star Trek and a spiky-haired dragon-like lizard. The newt, given the official name Tylototriton anguliceps, is actually only the fourth species from this group of amphibians to have been found in Thailand, making it an incredibly rare discovery.
The Klingon newt from Thailand. Porrawee Pomchote/WWF
It’s not only reptiles and amphibians that are new to science. Researchers have also discovered a new type of bat, Murina kontumensis, in Vietnam, whose head and forearms are covered in thick wooly fur.
There has also been quite a few outstanding species of plants found in the region famed for its lush, abundant rainforests. One of the highlights is “the Banana Pride of Nan”, a rare banana species discovered in a small area of Thailand that has bright red flowers with tiny yellow structures, making it unique among the banana family.
The Banana Pride of Nan. Wande Inta/WWF
While the new species being discovered are to be celebrated, there is also caution to be taken. For example, the Banana Pride of Nan – scientifically known as musa nanensis – has only been found in two small populations in a region heavily threatened by deforestation and despite being such a new species to science, is already considered critically endangered.