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New Species Found In The Greater Mekong Region

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Greater Mekong Reveals Thousands Of New Species…

Striped rabbits, bright pink millipedes laced with cyanide and a spider bigger than a dinner plate are among the host of new species recently discovered in the remote wildlife hotspot of the Greater Mekong.

The area is described as one of the last scientifically unexplored regions of the world and the recent expeditions have uncovered a thriving community of life never seen by the rest of the world.

Until 1990, political problems, war and the remoteness of the region kept most scientist from surveying the area. So little research has been conducted in the region that unknown animals and plants have been turning up at a rate of 2 a week for a decade.

Thomas Ziegler, curator at Cologne Zoo, was among the researchers to explore the Greater Mekong, he said:

“It is a great feeling being in an unexplored area and to document its biodiversity for the first time, both enigmatic and beautiful.”

At least 1,068 new species were identified in the Greater Mekong from 1997 to 2007 along with several thousand tiny invertebrates.

The world’s second species of striped rabbits, Nesolagus timminsi, with black and brown fur, were discovered in Vietnam and Laos in 2000.

the ammanite striped rabbit nesolagus timminsi found along the mekong river in laos and vietnam New Species Found In The Greater Mekong Region

Bright pink, spiny dragon millipedes, Desmoxytes purpurosea, were found in Thailand crawling over limestone rocks and palm leaves. These millipedes defend themselves with glands that produce cyanide, scientist believe that the bright pink coloration is a warning to predators to the millipede will be fatal if consumed.

a dragon millipede desmoxytes purpurosea from the thai side of the mekong river New Species Found In The Greater Mekong Region

A huntsman spider, named Heteropoda maxima, measured 12in (30cm) across and was found in caves in Laos. The spider is described as the most remarkable of 88 new spices of spider located in Laos, Thailand and the Yunnan province of China.

heteropoda maxima a huntsman spider a foot across found in khammouan province laos New Species Found In The Greater Mekong Region

Scientist even found a Laotian rock rat, Laonastes aenigmamus, thought to be extinct for 11 million years, for sale in a local food market in 2005. Unbeknown to the scientists, the rock rat, known as Kha-Nyou, has been enjoyed skewered and roasted for generations.

laotian rock rat New Species Found In The Greater Mekong Region

The Siamese Peninsular pit viper, Trimeresurus fucatus, was found slithering through the rafters of a restaurant in Thailand.

gumprechts green pit viper found through most of the mekong valley New Species Found In The Greater Mekong Region

Two of the most surprising discoveries include two types of muntjac deer. While living specimens still elude researchers, the dark Annamite muntjac, Muntiacus truongsonensis, was identified in Vietnam from skulls and descriptions by locals who knew it as samsoi cacoong – “the deer that lives in the deep, thick forest”.

Another extremely rare mammal to be found was the critically endangered Javan rhino.

javan rhino New Species Found In The Greater Mekong Region

The discoveries including 519 plants, 15 mammals, 89 frogs, 279 fish, 46 lizards, 22 snakes, 4 birds, 4 turtles and 2 salamanders, were published December last year in the WWF report ‘First Contact in the Greater Mekong.’

Stuart Chapman, the director of WWF’s Greater Mekong programme, said:

“We thought discoveries of this scale were confined to the history books. This reaffirms the Greater Mekong’s place on the world map of conservation priorities.”

In total, there are estimated to be more than 20,000 different types of plant, 1,200 species of bird, 430 mammals, 800 reptiles and amphibians, and 1,300 fish in the Greater Mekong.

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