Dragon millipede, Desmoxytes purpurosea, has glands producing cyanide to defend itself
Though full of conventional eco platitudes and gush about “vital habitats” and “precious landscapes,” the World Wildlife Fund has an otherwise entertaining, and well-illustrated, report on new species discovered in recent years in the general vicinity of the Mekong River watershed.
According to a new report launched by World Wildlife Fund (WWF)... First Contact in the Greater Mekong... 1068 species were discovered or newly identified by science between 1997 and 2007 – which averages two new species a week. This includes the world’s largest huntsman spider, with a foot-long leg span and the Annamite Striped Rabbit, one of several new mammal species found here. New mammal discoveries are a rarity in modern science.
While most species were discovered in the largely unexplored jungles and wetlands, some were first found in the most surprising places. The Laotian rock rat, for example, thought to be extinct 11 million years ago, was first encountered by scientists in a local food market, while the Siamese Peninsula pit viper was found slithering through the rafters of a restaurant in Khao Yai National Park in Thailand.
“This report cements the Greater Mekong’s reputation as a biological treasure trove—one of the world’s most important storehouses of rare and exotic species,” said Dekila Chungyalpa, Director of the WWF-US Greater Mekong Program. “Scientists keep peeling back the layers and uncovering more and more wildlife wonders.”
The findings, highlighted in this report, include 519 plants, 279 fish, 88 frogs, 88 spiders, 46 lizards, 22 snakes, 15 mammals, 4 birds, 4 turtles, 2 salamanders and a toad. The region comprises the six countries through which the Mekong River flows including Cambodia, Lao PDR, Myanmar, Thailand, Vietnam and the southern Chinese province of Yunnan. It is estimated thousands of new invertebrate species were also discovered during this period, further highlighting the region’s immense biodiversity.
World’s largest spider, Heteropoda maxima, has a legspan of up to 12 inches (30 centimeters)
National Geographic slideshow