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Pictures: 126 new species discovered in Greater Mekong region last year
December 18, 2012

The Ruby-eyed pit viper (Trimeresurus rubeus) was discovered in the forest of Vietnam’s Cat Tien national park. Photograph: Peter Paul van Dijk/Darwin Initiative.

Some 126 new species were described in Asia'a Mekong region last year, notes a new report published by the World Wildlife Fund (WWF).

Extra Terrestrial — a follow up to last year's Wild Mekong report that described 208 newly described species — aims to raise public awareness of the region's high levels of biodiversity as well as threats to its native ecosystems. The Greater Mekong region covers five Southeast Asia nations — Cambodia, Laos, Vietnam, Thailand, and Myanmar — as well as China's Yunnan province.

Extra Terrestrial tallies species described for the first time in academic publications during 2011. It counts 82 plants, 13 fish, 21 reptiles, 5 amphibians and 5 mammals. The report highlights several charismatic species, including the demonic-looking Beelzebub’s bat; a new ‘walking’ catfish from Vietnam, a minuscule (2 cm long) fish from Thailand; a blind cave fish from Laos; a frog with a bird-like call; and ruby-eyed green pit viper from Vietnam.

The yin-yang frog (Leptobrachium leucops) was one of five new amphibian species discovered in the Greater Mekong region in 2011. Photograph: Jodi J. L. Rowley/Australian Museum

The report notes that 1,710 new species have been described from the Greater Mekong region since 1997.

Beelzebub’s tube-nosed bat (Murina beelzebub) from Quang Tri province, Vietnam. Photograph: Gabor Csorba/WWF

“The Mekong region has a breathtaking array of biodiversity, but many of these new species are already struggling to survive in shrinking habitats,” said Dr. Barney Long, WWF Manager of Asian Species Programs, in a statement. “It’s vital that we increase our support for protected areas and greener economic development if we want these new species protected and to ensure that other intriguing species are discovered in years to come.”

Extra Terrestrial says that large-scale dams — notably the Xayaburi dam in Laos — are a major threat to the Mekong's aquatic biodiversity. Meanwhile many species in the region are vulnerable to poaching for the wildlife trade.

The tiny Boraras naevus from southern Thailand. Photograph: Peter Maguire

The pygmy python (Python kyaiktiyo), a 1.5m-long snake from the Kyaiktiyo wildlife sanctuary in Myanmar (Burma). Photograph: George Zug of the National Museum of Natural History-Smithsonian

Blue skink (Larutia nubisilvicola). Photograph: Michael Cota

A new blind cave fish (Bangana musaei) from underground karst formations in central Laos. Bangana musaei. Photograph: Helmut Steiner

Quang’s tree frog (Gracixalus quangi) from Vietnam is notable for singing a different call each time it vocalizes. Photograph: Jodi J. L. Rowley/Australian Museum

CITATION: WWF Extra Terrestrial Dec 2012.

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