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.
6. A warpainted lizard who’s very shy
Scientists found another lizard, Gonatodes timidus, that also has spectacular colorings in Guyana. Part of this gecko’s Latin name, timidus, fittingly means “shy” or “fearful,” as the lizard has a “tendency to avoid being seen by humans” and is very quick to escape between rocks.
7. A purple flower with long, flowing “hair”
Passiflora longifilamentosa was found in a six-year-old reforested area of the Saracá-Taquera National Forest, Pará State,in the northeastern Brazilian Amazon. The flower can also be found in French Guiana, in “a largely untouched, poorly explored area.” There are more photos of this stunning flower in this article by the scientists who discovered it.
8. A fish whose lips turn gray
Apistogramma cinilabra was found in a small forest lake in Peru; its red spots distringuish it from other species of Apistogramma. The adult males are territorial and, when aggressive (and when mating), their lips turn ash-gray (cinis is Latin for “ashes” and labra means “lips”).
9. A big-eyed snake
Chironius challenger is a colubrid or vine snake; such snakes are mildly venomous, with fangs located in the back of their jaws to aid venom delivery. The new snake was found in Maringma Tepui, described as a “flat-topped, sandstone” snake in the Pakaraima Mountains on the Guyana-Brazil border and named after Professor George Edward Challenger, a character in Arthur Conan Doyle’s 1912 novel, The Lost World.
10. A fish with dark blotches
Dicrossus warzeli, with its distinctive rows of dark blotches, was found in Brazil’s Rio Tapajos and exclusively in clearwater streams with sandy bottoms littered with leaves. The fish take their name from Martin Warzel, who collected and who first imported the species to Germany.
11. A river stingway
Potamotrygon tatianae is a river-dwelling sting ray that is found only in Peru. It has unique features including a “single row of dorsal tail spines,” a “relatively longer tail posterior” and a “closely packed and highly convoluted vermicular [worm-like] pattern” on its dorsal disc. Potamotrygon tatianae takes its name from the late Tatiana Raso de Moraes Possato, who was “an enthusiastic researcher” of chondrichthyans, cartilaginous fish with jaws.
Photo of Passiflora longifilamentosa by Joao Batista Fernandes da Silva; all photos thanks to the World Wildlife Fund