Scientists have officially added 115 new species to the exclusive hall of fame known as the animal kingdom, including a mole with a strange nose, a dragon-like crocodile lizard, and a snail-munching turtle found in a food market.
All of these creatures are featured in a new report by the conservation organization WWF, titled “Stranger Species”, showcasing all the new species discovered in 2016 around the Greater Mekong region, a land bursting with biodiversity in Southeast Asia that encompasses Cambodia, Laos, Myanmar, Thailand, Vietnam, and southern parts of China. There’s been a total of 2,524 new species discovered in the area since 1997.
The reel of species includes 11 amphibians, two fish, 11 reptiles, 88 plants, and three mammals. One of the most vibrant of the batch is the Vietnamese crocodile lizard, a fierce-looking medium-sized reptile with a particularly pretty orange head (image above). Faced with the monolithic threats of habitat destruction, coal mining, and the pet trade, this beast is already in danger with fewer than 200 individuals left in the wild. “This is terrifyingly low,” Professor Dr Thomas Ziegler, who discovered the lizard, said in a statement.
Deep in the forested mountains of Thailand, researchers also found a mountain horseshoe bat with a sensitive nose. The forests near a northern Vietnamese harbor were also found to be home to a vibrantly colored speckled frog.
Biologists also stumbled across a snail-eating turtle while looking for some lunch at a local food market in Thailand. Suspicious that this could be a new species, the scientists bought a pair and took them back to the lab for analysis. Lo and behold, it was a species previously unknown to science.
While discovering new species is always positive, it also underlines the importance of protecting the environment and its wildlife. Many of the species are already in severe danger of becoming extinct, if not already heading that way. If things don't change soon, there won't be many more years in which scientists discover beautiful new species of flora and fauna.
"Rivers in the Greater Mekong and the critical services and resources they provide are threatened by a host of poorly planned and coordinated development projects that threaten not only the ecosystem, but also the economy and the livelihoods of millions of people,” said Marc Goichot, Water Lead for WWF-Greater Mekong. “We must realize that rivers connect the wildlife and the people of this region. If we destroy them, we not only destroy the wildlife but ourselves as well.”