In just the past three years, a total of 441 new species have been found in the Amazon. All told, 258 plants, 84 fish, 58 amphibians, 22 reptiles, 18 birds and one mammal have been discovered.
Indeed, over the past four years, an average of two new species (many of which challenge our common beliefs about some animals) has been identified every week. “The more scientists look, the more they find,” says Damian Fleming, head of programs for Brazil and the Amazon at WWF-UK.
Scientists have fewer and fewer places to seek out the earth’s rich biodiversity as rainforests in the Amazon ecosystem and in Asia are cleared for agriculture and economic development. One-fifth of the Amazon rainforest has already been lost. While Brazil has slowed down the pace of destruction in the past eight years, about 6,000 square kilometers are turned into farmland every year.
1 in 10 of the species are found in the 1.4 billion acres of the Amazon’s rainforest and its 4,100 miles of winding rivers; almost 400 billion trees belonging to 16,000 different species grow in the Amazon. These eleven new species are just a few of the many that can be found in the rainforests. It’s a tragedy, and a travesty, to think of all of the wildlife and plants that we may never know due to the loss of their habitat.
1. An herbivorous piranha
“Piranha” is synonymous with a “dangerous fish with teeth” that has been known to eat humans, but Tometes camunani, which can be up to 20 inches wide and weigh nine pounds and lives in the rocky waters of the Brazilian Amazon, primarily eats aquatic herbs (Podostemaceae). Dam projects and mining activity in Pará State threaten the fish’s river home.
2. A purring monkey
The babies of the Caqueta titi monkey (Callicebus caquetensis) purr. “When they feel very content they purr towards each other, and the ones we raised would purr to us,” says Thomas Defler, who helped to discover the monkeys in Colombia’s Amazon. The new monkey is one of 20 species of titi monkeys, all of which live in the Amazon basin.
3. A thumbnail-sized frog
This minuscule brown poison dart frog has been given the Latin name Allobates amissibilis. The second word means “able to be lost” as the frog’s habitat in Guyana — in a very confined area of theIwokrama Forest — is slated for tourism development.
4. A gorgeous pink orchid
A stunning flower with two tones of pink, Sobralia imavieirae belongs to a genus of some 125 orchids and is found in the Brazilian Amazon. Other Sobralia orchids are found in Central and South America and can be pure white, yellow, green, purple and blue violet, among other colors.
5. A lizard that’s already endangered
Scientists found Cercosaura hypnoides from the hatchlings of eggs collected in the Colombian Amazon. Since those eggs were collected, the lizard has not been seen in the wild, leading scientists to fear that it is already endangered. Of the thirteen known Cercosaura species, the newest found has the smallest distribution, in Meta, Colombia.
Photo of Passiflora longifilamentosa by Joao Batista Fernandes da Silva; all photos thanks to the World Wildlife Fund
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